My adventure began around 8:00 on Wednesday morning. Perhaps even earlier because I did make a couple of stops before I finally left for Creation
, but 8:00 was when I actually left with the intention of going.
The drive itself was rather uneventful, however something interestng happened when I stopped to grab a quick bite and use the restroom. It was at the Sidling Hill service plaza that I decided to stop. But I was actually ready to stop at the Midway Plaza. But when I was getting ready to pull into the plaza lane, I felt like the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me to wait til I got to the Sidling Hill plaza. So I did. And I'm glad I listened.
When I got there I really had to go. After all, I had been holding it for about a half hour longer than I had to. But when I came out of the restroom, I saw the reason why God wanted me to wait. As I approached the eateries I saw three soldiers mulling around getting ready to order their lunch. So I approached them to thank them for their service, and because I saw this as a golden opportunity to do something that I've wanted to do for a long time. After I thanked them, I took $20 out of my pocket and offered to buy them lunch. They were somewhat surprised by this, but I told them it was the least I could do for them since they do so much for all of us. They were gracious enough to allow me to do this and thanked me for the offer. And I was honored to be able to. They were taking theirs to go, so they didn't join me, but they did thank me again as they left. And one of them asked me about my ink-n-fire
. It was all very cool.
I arrived at the Agape Farm around 11:00. Actually, I arrived about a mile from the main gates at around 11:00. But I didn't get to my site until 12:22.
This was my site. Or, at least, this was the view from my site.
My home away from home for the next four nights and three days.
And, of course, the reason why I came.
I had a little trouble getting my tent up because it really isn't a one-man operation. Fortnately for me there were a few other Compassion advocates around who were willing to help.
It was kinda funny that the only one who recognized me from last year was Wanda - Randy
's wife - until they saw my shoulder. Then they remembered me. I got to explain that I donated my hair to Locks Of Love and was going to try the bald look for awhile, but making that decision in the middle of winter was not so bright.
After I settled in I headed out to see what was going on. My first stop was the Fringe Stage to see Big Don
. It was good to see him again and get caught up with each other. I also asked if he was going to need me to help with security this year. And while he said yes, he could always use my help, he also informed me that there would be no mosh pit this year. I was heartbroken. But we would get through it. After a few moments I headed over to the volunteer staffing tent to offer my services. They took my information, then they said to return later to get my T-shirt and badge.
It was close to 2:30 by this time and I wanted to check to see if my help was needed at any of the Compassion
booths. It was.
I met up with Jason, our event facilitator for the whole Creation Festival. He asked if I would mind starting out early today. My original shift was scheduled for 5:30 - 9:30. But the Pavilion was going to open at 3:00 instead of 5:00. So he was hoping we had coverage for the entire time. And I don't mind helping out, so I said "Sure."
I may have had the first sponsorship of the entire event. A young man walked up to the table and he looked intent on what he was doing. I told him if he had any questions to feel free to ask me. But he knew what he was doing, and he found a child in just a few minutes. I was excited to see it all start this way.
The festival wasn't as big as it usually is. Only 60,000 people this year - from what I've heard. But it was still a good festival.
I have to say, this year my experience at Creation was different from last year's. With Bob not being here, I didn't have to concern myself with whether or not he was being entertained. So I spent a lot more time here as a volunteer than as a festival goer. Which means I didn't get to see all of the bands I wanted to, but I found a much deeper satisfaction in knowing that I helped this year's festival to run smoothly for others.
I did get this shot from just outside of the pavilion while the main speaker of the evening, Reggie Dabbs, was on stage.
The festival basically shuts down for the worship prior to and the main speaker of each night. So I stepped outside to get this pic.
I have no pics from Wednesday night's shows. I was in the vendor's pavilion until after Skillet
finished. Thus, no pics. And I couldn't get close enough to the stage to take any decent pictures of Relient K
. So you'll just have to take my word for it when I say they were both really good shows. And Skillet's was even better than when we saw them in Greensburg
. More flash and fire - I guess because they were outside.
When the shows were finally over I wandered around for a little while before heading back to my campsite for the night. I got back just in time to see the beginnings of the Late Nite Cafe'. I didn't stay up though.
Thursday morning there was an interesting fog laying over the festival grounds. It kinda rolled around for a little while before it faded off.
I had gotten up around 5:00 and was feeling kinda lazy so I waited til 6:00 to head to the showers. Big mistake. Not only was it a chilly 62 degrees outside, there was a line to get a shower and the water in the showers was cold. It was terrible, but I toughed it out. Like I had a choice?
I had myself cleaned up pretty quick and found myself munching on my breakfast bars and drinking water. I wanted to make sure to keep myself hydrated for the day and this was the best place to start. Besides, my shift at the Fringe Stage didn't start til 8:30.
8:30 rolled around and I headed over to the Fringe Stage where I found Big Don right away. This year Don was supervising the security crew since last year's supervisor, Alan, had just recently started a new job and couldn't make it to the entire festival this year.
Don and I found ourselves strolling over to the Food Court so Don could grab a bite to eat. Then we continued to catch up with each other as we walked back to the stage. Once we got there I met the other Supervisor, Bob.
Bob was making breakfast for himself and anyone else who wanted to join him. So we did.
Eventually Don's wife Judy stopped over to see how things were going. This year she was working at the Main Stage. So we didn't get to see her as much as we did last year.
Don and Judy are like the substitute "parents" for most of the people working security on the Fringe. They're both so full of love for everyone, and they care so much about these kids. Both the ones who work the stage and the ones who come for the festival. You will never find more loving people than these two. I am honored to have them among my friends.
Shortly after getting the lay of the land I was given my assignment. And this was my post at the Fringe Stage.
I am the gate keeper!
Not a bad vantage point of the crowd, when there is one.
It's kinda wierd to work the early shift at the Fringe since nothing really happens until 10:45. But they do need people to make sure that no unauthorized individuals are lingering around the backstage area, getting in the way of the people who are doing the stage work.
The regular crew shows up around 11:30. Candyman was first. And why do they call him Candyman? Because every year he throws hundreds of dollars worth of candy out to the crowd troughout the festival. The crowd loves it, and he loves doing it.
Here Candyman is stashin' his goods til the time comes to excite the crowd.
He spent $450 on goodies this year, but he told me that he was going to cut himself off at $500.
Now for the regulars on Fringe Stage security.
Candyman in the back. The Marine center right. I forget the young lady's name on the left. And of course, Jess and Madison in front.
Then there's the Mad Hatter as I'm going to be calling him from now on.
Big Don had Madison braid his beard for him.
I think it's a good look.
The activities area. There's a lot of neat stuff over there
I didn't realize it at first, but this is a giant slide.
Then there's everybody having fun out there in the field.
Kid's riding their bikes and everything.
And the crowd started to grow before 10:00. They even started with the beach balls before any of the bands came on.
The first band up was The Proxy. No pics since I was on duty. I hate to admit this, but I don't even remember what they sounded like.
Next up was a band called Reilly
. I liked them. They had a dueling violin thing going on. At times the music sounded celtic and other times it sounde kinda classical with a pop blend.
Then my shift ended before the next set. But before I left I did something that at least a few of the people in the crowd appreciated. I had brought a case of water to pass out to them. So I did.
I remembered last year, how hot and sweaty it was at the Fringe, and I wanted to do something good for as many people as I could while I was there. So, I bought three extra cases of water to bring with me to the festival, just so I could toss it out to the crowd when they needed it. It was a welcome surprise.
I would've liked to stay and hang out and watch the next band, Esterlyn
, but I had some other people I had to go visit with before my shift with Compassion.
This is me posing with my favorite artist, Stephen Sawyer.
Perhaps you remember us posing together
last year. Well I took copies of that pic with me. One for him, and one for me that I wanted him to sign. He was especially pleased with the way I have the painting that he titled Calvary in the background of our picture. And he wanted to make sure that picture was in this year's pose.
He even asked me to sign his copy of the picture. We had many great conversations through the festival, and I've decide that I'm going to put a banner or some kind of link to his site, Art 4 God
, here, because his artwork is absolutely incredible. And he is one truly amazing man.
Shortly after leaving his booth I came upon the Raensem
and I had met them at Vertical Fest
back in September. They had just created their own clothing line last summer, but were too late to get into Creation 08. But JT and I encouraged them to try for this year. So I was really glad to see them here. And they were glad to see me, too. They were also happy to hear that JT's podcast is doing well. But scolded him (through me) because they were hoping to see business cards that they could share with people.
As we talked they told me that they weren't really making any money on the clothes, but they see it as more of a hobby and a ministry than a business. It affords them the opportunity to be at the festivals where they can meet people and talk to them about their faith. And they love the chances they get to talk to young people because of the clothes. Pretty cool, huh?
I headed to the Compassion booth after this and arrived with plenty of time to settle in. Once I got there I got to know some of our "neighbors".
Across the aisle from us was Eastern University (just outside of Philly), and they had a lot of fun with us - and everyone else. But what was really cool was their interest in sponsoring children.
A young lady who was staffing their booth came over to talk to me and asked if I could find any kids who liked to play baseball. Then she explained why. It seems that their school's baseball coach had sponsored a child from the Dominican Republic earlier in the day, and he picked the kid because his packet said that he liked playing baseball. And now he wanted his team to sponsor a child, one for each of the Freshman through Seniors classes. And he liked the idea that the team and the kids they sponsored would have something in common.
Unfortuantely, I couldn't find any more children who had baseball listed as something they enjoyed doing. But this is not the end of this story. There's more to come later.
I was in the pavilion when the main speaker of the evening came on. It was Joyce Meyer. And she had a really good message for the crowd. She encouraged the crowd, especially the young people, to use their creativity to do God's work. She explained how she believes that the face of the church has to change because we're no longer being an effective force in our culture. But our young people have all the resources and creativity necessary to make that change.
When my shift ended there was nobody on the Main Stage yet. But Hawk Nelson
was next up on the schedule. I walked around for awhile before heading to the Food Court to grab some dinner. I opted for a calzone tonight, then headed back to the campsite.
That's when I met Michelle.
She is a graduate of one of Compassion's projects in the Phillipines who's now going to school here in the states - Moody Bible College. She was meeting all of the advocates who were there and then was going to speak about Compassion from the Main Stage between Hawk Nelson and Chris Tomlin
. There was a good response after her talk. I know this because I headed out to the booths to help with the rush.
When things were done and settled in we had a bonfire at the Compassion campsite. A lot of the advocates and facilitators were there to just hang out and get to know one another. My area coordinator, Mark, who is also our regional director asked me about JT's podcast since JT had requested how to find audio promo spots for his show. So Mark was interested in finding out how that was going. I told him that Compassion had sent JT a CD but he hasn't had time to sort through the ones he wants to use.
We all stayed up til around 1:00 AM or so, until it started to rain - which was followed by thunder and lightning. But it was cool because it passed over quickly. That was it for Thursay.
Friday morning was kinda chilly again, but this time I wasted no time getting my shower. I was so happy to have hot water this time. And no line! It certainly made for a good start to the day.
Something else that made for a good start to the day was the breakfast burrito I had. And not just the burrito, but the company I had while I ate it.
A young man by the name of Kyler sat down at the table with me and we had a conversation. At one point he confessed that he has a hard time starting a conversation with strangers, but once one gets started, he can keep it going. So I told him that this is the one place where he shouldn't have to worry about that. I explained that he was here with 60,000 strangers who don't know him and might never see him again, so if he takes a chance to talk to someone and they think he's weird, then he doesn't have to see them ever again. But if he takes the chance and they end up liking him and want to stay in touch, then it paid off.
I also recommended that if he is still too shy to try, then he could just get a T-shirt from the vendors who were selling the ones that said "Free Hugs" or "New Friends Wanted: apply here.". People all over the festival are happy to oblige.
I didn't have a shift at the Fringe Stage today because I was planning on pulling a double at the Compassion booths. So I decided that today would be the day I tried the long hike up to The Lookout.
Yes, that is the same hill you see in the very first picture of this post. And this is the beginning of the trail that leads to the top.
It was a long hard hike for a big fat guy like me. But I paced myself, took my time and made it in about 40 minutes.
When I got to the top I saw this lone security volunteer.
It was like stumbling upon The Lost Outpost. I joked with him that he must like his solitude, and he admitted that he does. So this must be a decent assignment for him. Of course, there are people coming and going here all day long. So it really isn't a lonely place except at certain times.
This is the Main Stage from the Lookout.
Now, imagine I'm just panning from the right to the left with each of the next few shots.
That's a lot of campers...
After I had finished my picture taking and decided I was rested enough to do the hike back down the trail, I left.
I wandered around the vendor pavilion and tent for awhile, checking things out, talking to the people. It was quite enjoyable. Then as I was heading to the tent at the Top of the Hill, to start my shift with Compassion, I ran into someone very important: Pastor Harry Thomas, the founder of the Creation Festival.
He is such a cool guy and so nice to everyone. He was just standing there taking everything in, enjoying the fact that everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves. So I walked up and thanked him for starting the festival, and for being obedient to God for trying something different because Creation has been such a blessing to me and so many other people through the years.
That's when he saw my Compassion tags and asked me if I was here with Compassion. When I told him that I was here as a volunteer with Compassion he thanked me for being there, because the festival could never happen with out us.
That's a humbling thought. But I've always emphasized the way that Creation is powered by volunteers, and here's the founder of the whole event telling me that same thing, and thanking me for my involvement. I was blown away.
I got to the tent at the booth called Top of the Hill and as I was doing my thing with the other advocates we began to talk about some of the cool stuff that was happening for us while we were here. Especially the things that are realted to Compassion. And that's when I mentioned that the young lady from Eastern University and the baseball coach were looking for kids who like baseball, but I couldn't find any at the pavilion. So one of the other advocates said "Let's start looking through ours."
Within five minutes we had four more kids. And since we weren't busy the other advocates suggested I run the packets into the pavilion to give them to the coach or the young lady. And that's just what I did. The coach was on a break, but the young lady was there and the look that came to her face when she saw me with the child packets was unforgetable.
She thanked me and told me she'd give them to the coach as soon as he returned. And I felt good about doing this.
After my shift ended I went back to the Compassion campsite for our advocates dinner. We had pizza. It was good. And we all got to hang out and get to know one another some more. We also got to meet another graduate from one of our projects in Nairobi, Kenya. Her name is Jennifer.
Jennifer was scheduled to speak from the Main Stage for our Friday night packet pass. But what she didn't know was that Compassion had brought her sponsors in for the event. And they were going to surprise her on stage. We all knew it was going to be great, but it was killing us not to say anything. Instead, we joked around with her, telling her to cry onstage if she could so people would be more moved to sponsor children. Little did she know what was in store for her. Cry, indeed...
After our dinner I went into my tent to rest for awhile. I suppose I should mention that I hadn't been sleeping well. It had been chilly at night and my air-mattress had a leak - so I couldn't use it. And I was just plain wiped out. I found myself napping in no time. That is, until the rain started. That's when I zipped up my tent and went back to sleep.
I didn't stay asleep for long. There's always so much to do, and I did have another shift to work at the pavilion. I would be working til the end of the night, but I didn't mind. I would still be able to see most of David Crowder
and Third Day
. I would also get to be in the busiest booth for after the packet pass - though I really didn't think it was that busy.
Meanwhile, the young lady from Eastern University was at their booth so I waved her over to ask about the other child packets I had found. She was saddened to tell me that they couldn't sponsor those kids at this time because there are no classes in session and the packets have expiration dates on them. So, instead, they're going to have Compassion come to their school in the fall. And their going to ask Compassion to bring children who have interests in sports like those of the various teams at the school. Then the coaches will encourage all of the teams to sponsor a child who shows an interest in whatever sport they're playing. Likewise, it may encourage individual students to sponsor kids for the same reason - the common bond of loving a particular sport. I thought it was a genius manuever!
Speaking of Compassion, when Jennifer came out she talked very passionately about Compassion and what they did for her. And when her sponsors came out to see her, she immediately started crying, and didn't stop for several minutes. You could tell people were being moved by this. And not just because we had a lot of sponsorships afterwards, but because people were talking about it for the rest of the festival.
When everything calmed down we got to watch some of Third Day's set. I'd never seen them before, but I like a lot of their music. So I was pretty excited about getting to see as much of their set as I did. And when it was all done we had the Candlelight service. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera. But you can take my word for it, it was an amazing thing to see.
We weren't having the bon-fire tonight so I decided to just wander around a bit more before returning to my tent. That's when I ran into Big Don. He was hoping to get a funnel cake before heading to bed. And we were both looking forward to talking some more. We even bumped into Pastor Harry again. He offered me one of his pierogies as we talked some more. It was such a great night.
Saturday came soon enough. Another early morning. Another hot shower. Another hot breakfast. This time I picked the breakfast sandwiches. Ham, egg and cheese on a bun. And when I saw Big Don coming my way to grab a cup of coffee, I picked one up for him too. We ate together as we headed to the Fringe Stage for the morning shift.
Another uneventful early morning at the gate. Then the bands got started and I had to stay alert. But this time I took pictures anyways. What were they gonna do? Fire me?
First band up was Doubledge
They came out and the lead singer asked the crowd if they were ready for some hip-hop. There were a few cheers from a small section ofthe crowd. Then he said "That's too bad, cuz we rock!"
They were pretty good. A kinda hip-hop metal blend. Not just like P.O.D., but similar.
Between sets I met this guy. His name is Sam.
The stuffed animal was, he claimed, his love child with one of the young ladies who was working backstage. Sam and I had a great conversation while we waited for the next act to come on.
Sam had been struggling with some things and he was open to confess to me that for the longest time he was just going through the motions of being a Christian. But last night he had gone to the prayer tent to get himself right.
He prayed with Candyman. And Candyman told him straight up that they were going to get rid of the suicidal thoughts he'd been having. And Sam had never told anyone about that. And after praying, Sam decided to get baptized during the Saturday afternoon Baptism at the pond.
Sam was hoping that Candyman would be there, but we suspected that he wouldn't be able to get away from the stage. So I told him I'd be there for him. He was encouraged by that.
The next act was a guy named B.Reith
. A white Christian rapper. He was pretty good. I took a couple of pictures of him, but he moved so much they all turned out kinda blurry.
And then my shift ended. And just in time. I tossed out another case of water, took off my vest and badge and made my way out into the crowd for Children 18:3
These kids are easily one of my favorite bands right now.
Not only is their music awesome, they put on a show that I would say is second only to Skillet.
And I say that only because they don't have the foggers, smoke, flashpots and flames that Skillet does.
Otherwise, I might have to go with these kids.
That was amaaaaaazing!
Shortly after leaving the Fringe, I headed over to the pond to see the baptism.
If you look a little off center you'll see someone in a powder blue T-shirt. Just to the left of that person is Sam's head.
And here's Sam after his baptism.
I was glad that I could be there for him. And he was glad I came. We decided that we should head over to the Fringe so he could talk to Candyman about this. But Sam wanted to dry off first, so I told him I'd meet him over there.
I got there in time to catch the tail end of The Classic Crime
. I liked these guys.
When it was done we found Candyman. After all, he was instrumental in Sam's baptism. So I wanted to get a picture of them together.
Even if it is a somewhat comical pose...
I have a lot of respect for Candyman. He really puts his heart into being here.
But, so do so many of us. Still I wanted a picture with him because I appreciate what he did for Sam.
After this, things wrapped up at the Fringe and I headed back to the Main Stage to prepare for my final shift with Compassion.
It was kinda weird that I found myself at the Stage Right booth when I did. I was talking to one of the other advocates there when a lady approached us being a bit distraught about her decision to sponsor a child.
Apparently, someone had been lying to her - and I don't say that lightly! Whoever it was that was talking to her was giving her flat out false information and lies about Compassion. Information that can be checked online at Compassion's website and verified by outside charity watchdog websites. But they were obviously trying to convince her that Compassion wasn't worth dealing with, and some other organization does things much better.
Well, the other advocate whom I was talking to, Steve, took charge of the situation as he gently, yet firmly explained to her what she wanted to know. He gave her his card, and began to give her facts and numbers that she could confirm for herself when she got home. She studiously wrote things down on the back of the card. He even asked her to go to the Charity Navigator
and compare information on Compassion's rating to the other organization's information.
After a few moments she began to feel more at ease about her decision. And then she remembered that on a recent mission trip to India, the people that she dealt with, especially her interpreter, were all a part of, or connected in some way to a Compassion project in the area where she was. She had regained her confidence at this point and we were glad to have helped.
Still, I think it's sad that someone - and a Christian at that - would do something so mean-spirited just because of their involvement with another organization. Especially when both of our organizations are just trying to help children in poverty. Can't people see that we're all meeting a need? We're just doing it in different ways.
With this crisis averted, I headed to the Top of the Hill tent for my final shift of the festival. From there I could see the stage pretty well. But it wasn't good enough to get pictures.Kutless
put on a great show while we had a somewhat steady flow the entire evening. And we even had a few rushes between sets. Casting Crowns
wrapped things up on the stage and we lingered at the tent for some time after.
I believe I also took the final sponsorship of the entire festival. We had everything packed up and were just about to put the last of the child packets into a box for shipping when a young man came up with his girlfriend and a couple of other friends.
He asked me about sponsoring a child and how much it cost. Then he asked me about what happens if he can't keep his commitment. He explained to me that he had a steady job now, but he would be going to school soon and wasn't sure how steady he'd be able to work. So he was concerned about what would happen to the child he sponsored if he couldn't continue. But rather than just asking what would happen, he was interested in knowing if he could just find someone else to sponsor the child if he couldn't.
I told him that Compassion would work with him if it came to that. And if he could find someone to take over for him they would gladly help that to happen. But I encouraged him to possbly find someone to help him to sponsor the child until he could afford it by himself again. Then, maybe, the other person would feel comfortable with sponsoring a child of there own, and he would know he had helped to get another child sponsored.
He liked that idea and signed up right then. When he finished filling out his form, the staffers from Compassion said it was time to pack it all up. And that was that for us.
I returned to the campsite and we had our last bon-fire of the festival. But first, I packed up all of my stuff and decided to sleep in my car for the last night. That way I could leave as soon as I woke up in the morning.
Several of us sat around the fire pit talking about how much we enjoyed the whole event. We also talked about some of the stories we heard from people who already sponsored children. And we discussed the way people seemed to be responding so well to Compassion this year. We were all impressed by the questions that people seemed to be asking. It was so much more than just "How much does it cost?". People wanted to know what their money was going towards. They wanted to know that they were really going to impact someone with their efforts. It was good to know that people, especially young people, weren't just doing this because they had their heartstrings tugged on, or out of guilt. They were sponsoring kids because they knew they should be doing it for the kingdom of God.
Even though I didn't get to see as many bands or take as many pictures as I did last year, I had a much more satisfying time this year. Everything seemed more focused on our interpersonal relationships and less on the "fun". I've met some people and bonded with them in a much deeper way than I had the opportunity to do last year. And I left Creation with a deeper sense of myself. I left knowing that I served my purpose there, and served God by being there. And I look forward to doing it again next year.
Labels: Compassion, Creation, Entertained, faith, Festivities, Friends, Getting away from it all, Ink-n-Fire, Music, My life, My ministry, Pics, Waxing Patriotic