Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Raising the Roof in Tijuana

Orientation Meeting

What an amazing experience! Four days of physical labor and spiritual introspection in Tijuana left me really appreciating how much humble circumstances can give clarity and meaning to my life.

Randy, Riley, Jon & Faith
@ Krispy Kreme @ 7am (well, almost)

There were, of course, some challenges. The night before we were to leave, my backpack was stolen out of the van I rented while eating dinner in Chula Vista. I guess I have to learn some things, like not leaving anything in plain sight in a vehicle (especially a rented one), the hard way. I lost my keys, checkbook, my insurance information, pitchpipe, the book Dare to Dream Again which I didn't even get a chance to open, the van's Mexican insurance information, and a magazine that had my address on it. That was the main expense — changing the house locks costed about $90. *sigh* Anyway at least that's all taken care of now. Looking back, maybe this incident was just another part of the journey towards greater humility. (Slight tongue-in-cheek)

Baya, Missy, Sara, Showhei,
Riley, Mark, Greg, Randy, Killian
@ the Homes Without Boundaries kitchen

Thursday morning we arrived at the orphanage safely, but it was pouring rain, so we spent some time just getting situated. It was quite surprising to see puddles of water in the rooms in which we were staying. But everyone seemed to take it in stride.

Faith, Dung, Sara, chowing down

I think especially since this was the first time for everyone, there was a sort of anxious energy throughout the trip. With everything we did, a sort of I-don't-know-exactly-what I'm-doing-but-I-know-if-I-give-my-heart-it-will-work-out attitude seemed to make all the difference.

It's all about the kids!

Later on the rain subsided, and we were able to spend the rest of the day laying the concrete foundation.

Andrew, Cleto, and Nereida, hanging
outside the boys/girls room

Carpentry began the second day. By the end of the day we had all the internal and external wall-frames erected. It was exciting when the walls went up to see our creation take on three dimensions. Everyone wanted to participate in hammering but it seemed like there were more hammers than things to hammer. I would come to find out that this imbalance would be quickly corrected. In the meantime, a few people took the initiative to work on other peripheral tasks like drainage paths and yard work, which impressed me.

Malissa and Sara playing chicken

Saturday night we stayed up late and played a card game called Presidents. Lo and behold I won twice but was reluctant to decide on a punishment for the 'fools.' I finally relented at the prodding of the other participants ;-). Here are Malissa and Sara on their journey towards greater humility.

The orphanage kitchen

On Sunday we had a worship service where Mark gave a lesson from a book called Celebrating the Wrath of God (I know, not a very comforting title). It was very moving; he shared an excerpt from the book about a WWI soldier who had come across a fellow soldier's body, alone in death and stark in expression. The soldier went on to describe how the face of his fallen comrade had moved him profoundly; it urged him to live a life worthy of such sacrifice.

I'm not sure if it was Mark's eloquence or the emotions of the three days prior — probably both — I was deeply moved and wept. I felt as if God's gentle but firm touch had finally waded through all the distractions, defense mechanisms, and insecurities and really contacted soft flesh, soft heart. There was joy in the realization that such a thing could still happen; there was sadness too, at the realization that this was in many ways a very special environment and circumstance. It was painful to think about returning home to a place which seemed so distant, so detached by comparison.

Greg, Taylor, Mark, Killian, Rudy

At least an experience like this gives me hope that such connection is possible even in my own culture, though it is rife with complacency and decadence. Now I am all the more convinced of my duty to do what I can with what God has given me to foster a kind of environment where deep connection can be made. If I hadn't seen some kind of progress towards this with my bible-talk group already I think I would have felt a bit lost upon coming back. Thankfully I have a much better idea now how to cultivate this sort of thing.

Eddie busts a move

Eddie taught one of the kids at the orphange (and a few of us too) some basic break-dance moves. Someday I'll be a six-steppin' fool. Q: How does one become a break-dancer? A: Práctica, práctica, práctica.

Mark, Jaime, Arturo, Cleto, Greg

Other trials came up during the trip too. Somehow my van managed to attract all the attention — a tractor tried to pass us while we were stopped on a hill and left a nice gouge in the front fender. And I managed to bottom-out enough times that the spare tire came off. More lessons?

At the end of the day on Saturday Kevin was backing his truck down a slope but veered too close to the edge; when the earth started to give way, all of the brothers rushed to help out. It took a couple of tries but eventually most everyone got a hand on the truck and heaved the backend of it over a few feet to safer ground. All the while Faith and Sara were praying for everyone's safety. It was a great victory and very symbolic of the unity that God had formed in us in order to accomplished what we had come to do.

Maria & Arturo Rodriguez;
Mission accomplished!

Here is the blurb that I emailed to Tara regarding the trip:

I keep thinking, how often do I have the opportunity to really make a difference? The majority of my time is spent contributing in ways that are very detached — write a check, pray for someone. This was a very special time to actually be with the people and do something that had significant impact.

By Sunday many people expressed wishes of wanting to stay, and I could understand what they were feeling. I too was mourning the end of our time spent with people whose circumstances give them the humility to ask for help and therefore enjoy God's blessings. Our trip was a reminder to me that having so much materially here in the States can easily be an obstacle to really asking for the help that I need — perhaps not physically but certainly emotionally and socially.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled." - Matthew 5:3-6

More photos are here: my photos, Eddie's photos, Kevin's photos.

Disneyland 2004

Faith, Federica, Michelle at
the Happiest Place on Earth©

Time to dust off the ol' blog. Here are pictures of my trip to Disneyland. Michelle rocks as the best Disneyland guide in existence. Who needs a map when you have a personal tour guide. I definitely saw more than I have ever seen of Disneyland in one day.

The line to Pirates of the Caribbean

I was surprised when I saw Disneyland's encouragement to its patrons to waste. Well, who am I to refuse such a polite request?

Star Tours!

Star Tours was such a blast from the past. It's still got it though. Except for a little blip in the film towards the end.


Toontown was cute except for the ridiculously long lines to see Mickey and Minnie in their (separate) houses and the fact that there is not a spot of shade in the entire ... town.

The Sword in the Stone

Fede, stop showing off!

Jason joined us later that day. New heights of hilarity ensued.

Jason, me, Faith, Fede

As the sun began setting, we enjoyed a relaxing jaunt on the Mark Twain.

Fear Factor, Disneyland

Fede showing off AGAIN.

Dinner at La Brea Bakery
We ended the evening with an hour-long search for a nice-but-cheap restaurant somewhere in Universal City and settled on La Brea Bakery. The live band playing nearby had a set of about three songs, which, to compensate, they decided to repeat back-to-back. How many times can one truly enjoy a personal rendition of the Eagles' Hotel California or Clapton's Tears in Heaven? Well, I found out — not that many.

Overall, it was an incredible trip! Michelle doubly-rocks not only as as tour guide but as a chauffer too. She's a Disneyland junkie though — what is that, three times in two weeks Michelle?

More photos are at Ofoto.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004



I went to Roc-Fest (sic) this past Sunday. Sara Burdett is moving up to the region formerly known as South-Central, Metro-Heights. It's funny because I know a lot of people up there already. Sara, meet Sara. Sara, Sara.

Hm, so much has happened and I haven't felt like blogging much. I will have to get back to it later this week probably. The eAssist contract I'm doing right now is sapping all of my free time...

Friday, August 27, 2004

Congratulations, Claire and Ben

Congratulations, Claire and Ben!

Ben just asked Claire to be his girlfriend on Thursday night. Nick, James and I went up there to celebrate with them. Here we are at BJ's grabbing a bite to eat afterwards.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Aloha 2004

Jason getting tested for radioactivity.

Well I'm back now. I think I'm fully recovered. Everything here is probably going to be pretty mixed up chronologically because I have pictures from different sources and also more to develop. All of the photos are here if anyone is interested; I'll post just the highlights here.

This is Jason getting patted down at LAX. Carly and I jumped on the opportunity to make a spectacle of this. As soon as I took this picture though, the officials there were not too pleased. They starting homing in on us but finally just told us to move outside the holding area. Yes sir; thank you, sir.

Outside our room at the Park Shore Waikiki.

This was not exactly our view from the hotel room, but just across the hall. Top floor, baby.

USS Arizona Memorial

On Monday (the 16th) we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. I learned that the Arizona was the place chosen to commemorate those that died in the attack on Pearl Harbor because when it sank, over half of its crew was lost. It suffered the most casualties of any ship in the harbor. In fact they decided not to raise the sunken ship; instead they decided to let the sunken hulk be the tomb for those who died in it. One really interesting thing I saw there was that some who had survived the attack later chose to be interred with their shipmates after they died.

A museum was there as well; unfortunately it was terribly crowded and had no air conditioning, so we decided not to go.

The Dole Maze.

On Tuesday, we visited the Dole Plantation. In it is a maze where you are supposed to find six colored stands; each stand has a stencil of a different fruit which you can trace on your ticket. We wandered around for quite a bit. It started to feel like a reality show after a while.

The Dole Plantation maze ticket.

Not exactly record time, but hey, we finished. (Hint: there's a map on the back of the ticket.)

Later that night I went to the Honolulu church's midweek service. Surprisingly, I knew one of the brothers there, at least by name. I had talked to Dino several years ago, when Kevin was just trying to get his bearings in San Diego. It was really cool to touch base with him. Also, I saw Joe there, and chatted with him after the service. It was a pretty simple lesson, led by a brother named Tui, who apparently knows Guillermo pretty well. Too bad there was no singing, though.

Showing off our tattoos.

On Wednesday, Carly and Jason and I decided to behave with reckless abandon and get tattoos. It took us each about two excruciating minutes for the tattoo artist at the Polynesian Cultural Center to apply them. Probably the most dangerous part was making sure to look away while he delicately sprayed the ink, so as not to get any paint in our eyes. Carly had a butterfly done; Jason, a gecko. Mine was certainly the most manly choice of the three — a dragon. Unfortunately you can't see much of them in this photo.

Spear-throwing at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Overall the PCC was probably the most interesting part of the trip. Each part of the Polynesian islands is represented. We were able to see Samoa, Marquis, and Fiji, if I remember correctly. Samoa's representatives had the most personality. Later we realized that it's a very well-rehearsed routine; it's very entertaining nonetheless.

The PCC's group photo.

The luau was very well done, and the food was incredible. It is interesting to note that the song they performed as thanks before the meal was the same melody used in "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow" in our song book. The show at the end was very good too. I especially liked the song performed a cappella. And of course the fire show was very good; in fact the main performer was the same guy who ran the Samoan show.

Jason snorkeling

Carly and Jason had a lot of fun snorkeling on Thursday at Shark's Cove.

Inhaling salt-water at Shark's Cove.

I think I got a week's worth of salt intake.

Jennifer and me at lunch.

Jennifer and I had lunch on Saturday. It was cool to finally meet her after playing phone tag a few times. We had a good talk; interestingly enough, she's read Boundaries. She is reading Search for Significance right now, which I will look into myself when I get the chance.

And this concludes Aloha 2004!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Hawaii 2004: No Rulez

Before Hawaii.
Well it's our first full day here in Hawaii and it's been incredible. Right now I'm at the Larsens' and we're waiting for our dinner to be ready and everyone is playing SSX on PS2.

This trip has been dubbed "No Rulez" because we have decided to cast off all restraint and throw caution to the wind. I started off on the way to LAX from San Diego yesterday by leaving the carpool lane twice over the double-yellow line. Jason did his part while we were boarding the plane. They were calling rows 35 and up and we jumped the gun (we were row 23). Actually by the time we got to the front, they started calling all rows; but of course we had already shown criminal intent beforehand.

Crazy stuff happened even before that though. While we were waiting to board the plane we were playing cards and Carly made a reference to an earlier conversation about the character "Pai Mei" in Kill Bill 2. After her comment she looked up and said, "Oh, and there he is." And there was David Carradine, walking out of the gate we were about to go through. I was totally stunned. I seriously contemplated running after him and asking for his autograph, but the time passed and I was too late. Dang it!

Okay, time for dinner now.

The three of us were seated in the emergency exit. When the stewardess came by, she looked at me and asked, "How old are you?" I laughed out loud.

Today we did a whole bunch of nothing. Well, I did at least. Mostly spent time on Waikiki beach swimming and relaxing. It's so nice out here. Jason saved somebody's life though. Details to follow.

The following is the opinion of Jason McCostis and does not reflect the views or beliefs of Vic's Blog. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

The following is an embellishment of true events. Concerning the stewardess, her actual words were, "Can you sit here? You need to be at least 15 years old in order to operate the emergency exit." Today I saved a boy's life. He was on the end of a jedi (jetty) and he was swept over by a large wave. I yelled, "Grab my hand!" and he did! "Hold on, don't you let go!" And just as I pulled him up, another large wave swept in and he was saved. Luckily he wasn't eaten by the shark swimming just off the jetty. That same shark attacked Vic and bit him on the foot. Fortunately Vic is wily and the shark only got a piece of his shoe, which shows the battle scar. That's the end of my embellishment.
Tim's version:
Although I wasn't actually there to witness any of this, these are the facts as I know them to be. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental. As hurricane Charlie swept overhead, creating 15-ft. swells, there in the distance was standing a young boy. Suddenly he was totally engulfed by water surrounded by ferocious man-eating sharks. As his life perilously ebbed away, Jason saw him from a distance. He ran out there — walking on water, so we thought — he grabbed the kid by his nappy dreads, lifted him up out of the water, swung him around his head twice, beating the sharks back. He then ran to shore, thus saving the child's life. The End.
P.S. I forgot to mention that Carly stole a blanket from the airplane, thus fulfilling her role as a rulez breaker.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Sara's Birthday

Irene, Beth

We had Sara's birthday party at the place last night. It was a lot of fun. There were just enough people there to have some decent conversations.

Shannon, Sara

Alyson did a really good job decorating the place. Poor thing had to take a nap earlier today because she was so wiped out with everything.

Alyson, Juan

After the party Sara and I caught up with everything. Her latest idea is to go to Jerusalem in June. Crazy, I tell ya! She'll want to take the GRE so that she can go to school there. The biggest thing she worries about being in a church of only seven people is them hearing her sing. So we're going to work on voice lessons too. Sometimes, all I can do is *shrug*. Get this, when she wanted to leave, I had to drive her to her car — she didn't want to walk into the party alone so she had Beth meet her a few streets away. Huh? Anyway, it's so good to have her back.

Sara, Eddy

Afterwards I talked to Faith on the phone for a bit; sounds like she had a pretty tough day. Or month. It was good to be able to be there for her.

It's interesting that when she asked me if I was excited to go to Hawaii, I realized that I haven't even really thought about it. This week has been so busy, and I've had to try to cram so much into it before I leave, that I'm figuring it will almost be anti-climatic to all of a sudden spend a week relaxing with only two, or four other people I know. Right now all I can imagine is doing a whole bunch of nothing. It's nice to think that there are so many people for me to spend time with. Especially considering that I didn't feel that way not that long ago.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Jon & Dung's Wedding

Nick, Martin

Well I'm starting to feel the wane of my enthusiasm for this narcissistic art of blogging. Or maybe it's just that I've had too busy of a week.

Curtis, Guillermo

This weekend was Jon and Dung's wedding. It was a very beautiful service, and everyone looked so happy. It was really cool that Steve was one of the officiating ministers too, as he just came back from his year of ministering in Japan. It was pretty much the first time I've heard him speak since he left, and I was having flashbacks.

Dung, Jon at the reception

Steve also preached this morning, which I felt went really well. What was particularly moving was that there were actually some people here from the Tokyo church; they happened to be in town so Steve had them share a bit at the end of service. They were so humble and respectful in that way that I will dare to say is characteristic of Japanese people and the quality I find the most admirable.

Mother-son, father-daughter dance

Actually I was pleasantly surprised how the service went, considering that pretty much all of the song-leaders were either sick or incapacitated or otherwise unavailable. Luckily enough Richard and Nick were there.

Vic, Dung

There's a show on Michael and the rest of the Jacksons on VH1 right now. I think there's another show on LaToya at some point too. That whole family makes me so sad.

Jaxon, Jeric, Mae

Nick and I have hung out quite a bit this weekend. On Friday night we went out to dinner and ran into Eric and Rebecca at Ki-Ku-Ya. Faith joined us later on for coffee and then we worked on some singing after that. Nick was part of the great turnout to ultimate frisbee on Saturday too. We had some two-and-a-half hours worth of rugged athleticism. Good stuff.

One neat thing that happened this weekend was during our household quiet-time. I shared a bit from a book I'm reading, The Different Drum, specifically a part about true community and how it differs from from what we typically call community. We got through two of the four "stages" that groups go through: pseudocommunity, and chaos. What was really encouraging for me was that while Carlos was praying, he prayed about the household and how it was probably the closest thing he had to true community — a place where people can be themselves, where we work conflicts out even through seemingly difficult issues. I was really encouraged. As for the last two stages — well, that will have to wait for another blog.

Monday, August 2, 2004

Evolution and Christianity

As a young Christian I figured that the challenge of atheism would be challenging in the beginning, but that as my faith grew and as I drew closer to God the doubts would diminish to a quiet whisper as my spiritual years accumulated. Perhaps I imagined it somewhat like hurdles in a race; as a young boy each one is a daunting obstacle that requires a focused leap with both feet. As the boy grows, the hurdles become less intimidating and become easier to cross. Eventually a good runner is able to take each hurdle in a stride that is indistinguishable from one running on flat ground.

These days I imagine it a bit more like a rugged uphill mountain course. At first the terrain is challenging, but negotiable as the boy becomes more agile. But though the runner grows in his skills, the challenges of the race grow to continue the test.

I never considered atheism a very credible idea; I subscribed closely to C. S. Lewis' idea that atheism is just too simple (from Mere Christianity, I believe). Briefly, one of his main premises is that everyone inherently knows a sense of right and wrong; therefore there must be some absolute standard that all of our moral compasses are hinting at. This idea seemed to make a lot of sense.

A conversation with my father challenged this thought though, and I did not have any reasonable response. His argument was that certainly, everyone has a sense of right and wrong, but that this is only with respect to the community. And as an illustration he noted the fact that, if a man is alone on a desert island, is there really such a thing as a "right and wrong" for this man? Um, hm. *shrug* Good point. Perhaps I am not recalling C. S. Lewis' arguments accurately. My feeling, though, is that I am left without any argument against atheism that can be gleaned simply from observation.

The other subtle leaning I have felt over the years is that towards evolution. What I mean is, the possibilty that the bible simply happens to describe those practices that promote survival of the fitest most effectively, but there really is no omnipotent benifactor. Consider the Parable of the Weeds:

Matthew 13:28-30 - "...The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
"'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

I could be way off (it's getting late), but this sounds a little like natural selection to me.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Understanding, and Being Understood

For a while I have really wrestled with feelings like, "Why don't people understand me?" "Am I the only one that sees these things?" "Am I going crazy?" These thoughts have been quite a source of anxiety. Recently though, I think that I have come to a change of heart regarding this issue. I realized something — people that do not understand me are not my responsibility. In other words, I should not take it personally if someone either does not understand me, and gives up trying to understand me. At first glance this may sound arrogant. And, I'm willing to consider that possibility. Here is my take on it, though.

I consider it my responsibility to do everything in my power to love people, which entails understanding them, serving them, and doing my best to grow in my capacity to do so. If I do not understand someone, it is my responsibility and burden to put forth the effort to understand that person. After all, it was Jesus who extended himself from heaven all the way to earth, all the way to death, even death on a cross, to "understand" me, to reach me. Therefore in imitation of Christ, it is my responsibility to understand others. Of course, it is also my right to decide to give up trying to understand a person, although at that point I believe I would not be imitating Christ's example. On the other hand, if a person does not understand me, I can only do my best to explain my heart and my motivation. If after that he/she still does not understand me, and ceases the pursuit of understanding me, then that is not my problem. It is tempting in such situations to feel that somehow I am to blame, I am off the map, I am crazy. And I think much of my anxiety has been tied to this idea. But this simply is not my responsibility.

A parallel idea is that of being romantically interested in someone. Imagine that I begin to have feelings for someone — believable enough, no? Now, imagine that girl finds out, but the feelings are not reciprocated (too believable, unfortunately). Now, the temptation is to feel insecure, inadequate, less than a man, not good enough, worthless, and any other diminutive adjective you can think of. But, why should I feel this way? It is not my job to get people to like/love me. As Lisa Nichols said during teen camp, "What others think of me, is not my business." All that I can do is be myself. If a person chooses not to love/understand me for who I am, it is his/her loss.

This is all wonderful theory, of course. It is certainly more difficult to actually think this way and act accordingly.


One of the things that I've been thinking about is the concept of faith. I postulate that faith is something that really everyone possesses, and not just those who profess to have it. If you were to try to limit the decisions of your life to only those things which can be experimentally proven, you would simply not be able to make any progress at all.

Levy's Going-Away Party

Sarah, Lynn, Levy, Shannon

It's sad to see Levy go but of course we wish him the best in his pursuit of his education in film in LA! When I heard it was going to be at Dave & Busters I thought cool, I'll be able to use up my four power cards. Unfortunately, the place was incredibly busy and incredibly slow — we waited probably two hours for a table. By the end of it I was slurring my words and drunk with sleepiness so I didn't get to use my cards. One highlight of the night was when I asked Sarah what her favorite video game was and she said, "Pac-woman. I got to level four once." I said, "You mean, Ms. Pacman?" I practically fell over laughing. It doesn't look so funny reading that but I guess you had to be there.

Levy enumerates his issues with Michelle

Saturday night James and I headed up to LA to hang out with Ben and another brother named Richard for a quadruple date. We had a lot of fun at sushi and miniature golf; my date was Alena from Armenia. I learned all sorts of interesting Armenian facts too, like the fact that Armenia was the first Christian nation. Caroline was James' date; it was really cool seeing her. Plus she was the only one I beat in miniature golf. I kept hitting the ball too hard.

Ivy and Lynn

Today Jared did the communion and Jee preached the sermon at church; both of them did really great jobs. In fact I think I'll email them tomorrow. The song service went really well too, I thought; there just seemed to be a certain youthful energy today. Maybe because the average age of everyone speaking was a bit younger this time.

It was a really nice day all around actually; I had lunch with Michelle (score one—err, two more, Michelle) and Lynn at Ruby's, then raced to see the Bourne Supremacy with Nikki. I really liked it, probably more than the first one. It was a good thing that Russ warned me it was really shaky camera work though; I think it would have been really distracting had I not known beforehand. Then tonight the household got together for a prayer night and ended up discussing some deep stuff — things like neediness, pride, hard times. Good stuff. But now it's late and I won't get to practice my guitar; oh well, maybe tomorrow.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Breakfast at Perry's

Tom, Little-T, Art, John

I had lunch with Tom and his boy and Art and John today. It was like a little Tecolote Sector reunion. Cute kid!

Ah, sweet mullet!

After breakfast I earned my keep at the ol' workplace. Then it was Changes That Heal, which went really well. I think it was the best session so far, actually — a breakthrough.

Father and son

Afterwards I made good on a promise to Tom that we would see Hellboy together. We got a pretty late start, around 11pm, so I loaded up on Reeses Pieces to try to stay awake. That was probably a bad decision though, because it seems like I was up all night tossing and turning.