The Water Boy

I have been an intern for Free Life Chapel since January and have had the honor of walking with this team from it’s inception.

So many people enjoy the fabulousness that is know as the Free Life Chapel worship experience, but what many do not see is everything that there is to be done Monday through Saturday in order to make Sunday appear so fabulous. SO many faithful volunteers and leaders dedicate their time to execute the vision in different areas of ministry, and SO many staff members work effortlessly 25 hours a day.

My job is kind of lost somewhere in the middle.

 I am like the “whatever you need” girl.

You know like, “Hey Hope, could you help me with this?” and my reply is usually, “O sure, whatever you need.”

Or, “O you need help on that project? Ya, ask Hope, she can work on whatever you need.”

If that were a job title, it would be mine. Actually I am just gonna claim it as mine anyways.

Hope Dodson- Director of “Whatever You Need”

Nice to meet you.

So, my life as an intern is always changing. I answer to a few different people, depending on the job that day, but usually it’s these folks:

Dan Snider: He kind of gets things done, so Sunday Mornings are usually my day working under Mr. Dan (and his gorgeous wife, Alma).

Lindell Austin: Lindell is in charge of all videos, etc.. so on video announcement days (also known as Thursday) I work with Lindell.

Jon Sierra: Jon does all graphics and logos and website stuff (and like a million other things) for FLC and usually calls on me to research on behalf of his creative mind. So, just calling or googling, or laying out options.. you know, the things that I am best at.

Marisol: I pretty much do everything else with Marisol. Some of my favorite intern days have been spent working along side her. She is like all amazing with her 13 subject spiral notebook (maybe not 13, because I have never counted, but I bet it’s close). From ladies events to counting inventory, Marisol and I work hand in hand, very often.

 

Cindy Thomas: I am ultimately always working under Pastor Cindy, because, well, all the other people answer to her too.

 Each day I never know what it will look like, just wait for the text or call – I may be researching product information one day, driving to McDonald’s at 5 am the next day, sitting in front of a computer entering database for 9 hours one night (not even joking – good times), and then waking up to drive a jet ski to film Summer Slam the next day(not even joking again. swear.), and sitting in on meetings to plan upcoming events that night.

I have learned so much, just by watching a group of people do their thing, each in their own element, and interacting together. I realized that it’s not about finding “that career” that will make me happy forever, but more about finding that place of passion, that awakens my spirit and allows my heart to dream, and even challenges my potential.

It is in that place that I feel whole and available to change and flex. I have seen projects flourish and those that fall flat (falling flat at the spur of the moment is never good – note taken). I have realized what I love and what I don’t care for so much while getting my feet wet in a little bit of all of it.

And am looking back on my time thus far with such a respect for those who do what they do, and how they do it – all of it, juggling at once – with style.

let’s just say, if the Free Life Chapel staff was a football team, as an intern, I am the water boy.

He’s the guy with the best job anyways. Completely insignificant, but gets to be right in the action. No one watches the water boy to make sure he is wearing the right outfit while he works, but he is as close as they get to the heartbeat of the team. He gets to facilitate the needs of the players, can hear the plays and is part of the huddle.

There are even those cool guys who get to stand on the sidelines at the games, looking all official and snazzy. They may appear important or as if they are a really big part of the action, because after all, they are on the field. But just because they appear to be close to the team doesn’t mean that they attend practice, doesn’t mean that they are loyal to the coach or the team or that they even care about the game. They could have just gotten a free pass or enjoy the view.

That is exactly where my prayer has been to be. Not in the spotlight, but that significantly insignificant water boy, who feels honored to work along side just a few of those who make Free Life Chapel go ‘round, in the background, filling in gaps, and as close to the heartbeat of the house as I can reach.

Just, ya know, doing “whatever they need”.

And loving every minute of it!

Behind the Scenes: FLC Creative Team Meeting

Welcome to a glimpse into the watering hole!

In the jungle also known as Free Life Chapel there are animals of all sorts and walks of life, each Sunday morning is like a safari ride – everyone is in the same house, but each department is kind of their own species. The greeters are the monkeys – carefree and friendly, while the security team are the kung fu pandas – that’s all I’m gonna say about that (don’t test them). We each have our own characteristics and traits that make Sunday go ‘round, and no Sunday would be made possible without the mix of them all.

Some more aggressive than others, and some goofy, while others quiet and observant – but there are a few who gather each week around a watering hole, to bring perspectives of the like and execute tasks according to his make-up of talents. Without the differences and never ending debate, we would never end a meeting or produce a service on a one accord.

From there, the single plan is delivered to departments and executed with passion, creating what we all know as the Free Life Chapel worship experience.

It’s a rare sighting when the mix of movers and shakers gather together, and I will never forget the first time I witnessed a creative team meeting at Free Life Chapel, which kind of resembled– or was an exact remake of something I must have flipped through recently. You know, the Discover Channel documentaries about Lion herds and how the “head honcho” kills their prey and brings it back for the herd to feast on. Feeling like a safari guide sneeking up on a rare glimpse into this society of a group of people who are all different, trying to come to one idea. I don’t think I spoke too much, because all I could think was how amazed I was at the process that was unfolding around this ‘watering hole’ of thoughts. Like I had just flipped channels and couldn’t peel my eyes from the action.

Yep, pretty much a swamp of creative juices.

It kind of goes something like this.

There is a list of topics – holidays, projects, series, ideas, new elements, etc..

There is a group of people.

There may or may not be food.

There are always lots of rabbit trails.

There are hilarious ideas being subtly shot down.

And other ideas being simultaneously praised and developed.

But at the end of it, there are at least three weeks worth of projects taking place in tandem, spread between about 15 people (definitely not evenly – shout out to Jon, Lindell and team) and my job consists of exactly four things: 1. take notes, 2. sit in amazement, 3. comment when/if I feel necessary (which is pretty much never) and 4. not get distracted and fall behind on my notes because I’m sitting in amazement.

It really is a fascinating sight for an administrative girl such as my self, in a room full of fully 100% creative minds – with no concept of price, time or agenda (figure all of those things out along the way) – and amazingly, it works that way. Go as far creative as possible, give the pieces to be researched to an administrative person, and then begin to cut, chop and rebuild.

I continually remind myself of the concept of the “CREATIVE meeting”. All of those things that I was dying to do (list and call and plan and map) take place after the meeting is over, so I have to consistently remind myself that this administrative girl is not on my turf, but in a herd full of creative thinkers, so I tread lightly, and wait for the tasks to be delivered for execution.

The process begins when Scott Thomas (senior pastor of Free Life Chapel) or someone else who has observed something in the world that should be pulled off as our own, throws out an idea, and it lays there, lifeless and void; and I kid you not, those around the watering hole begin to pace (in their heads, but I know it’s happening because I can see it as their eyes begin to shift and they fidget) I’m telling you, right out of the documentary:

At first, it’s subtle and everyone is questioning what the plan of attack is, or if the idea is ready for attack at all. Then one brave soul will begin to slowly circle the idea, observing the thought, and then throw a test comment out. Once that comment is received or rejected, everyone gets a feel for where the idea lies and all begin to pounce. Before you know it, words are flying, agree, disagree, debate, like-it-but-add-something, hate it, love it, check into that, never gonna happen, and then eventually once the group has let the last piece go, a simple idea is developed into one of two things: it has either been torn into shreds and lies just as lifeless as it was delivered – a carcus in pieces – or it is torn into shreds and underneath the initial form lies a distinguished masterpiece; probably more developed than it had ever been intended.

That first day I was like the scared animal watching from the back behind a tree, some other days I still find myself staring in amazement, and rarely I’m that first brave soul to take a test shot at the idea that could potentially be a revolution; but every Tuesday, assuredly, I can be found around the watering hole, taking my notes, trying to follow rule number four, and just waiting to be delivered my portion.

Rough Life

I really have to rough it sometimes as an intern at Free Life Chapel.

Today we filmed for our upcoming summer series.

I mean, I had to drive around a jet ski all over Tampa Bay with our camera man turned around backward on the seat behind me getting shots of the pastors on the other ski. We didn’t laugh at all, not even at the mess ups. It was very serious.

Then I had to drive super fast for the last shot, THEN I was forced to have lunch at Bahamas Breeze before we headed back to Lakeland.

I truly don’t know how I made it.

*I would just like to note that if you did not pick up on the sarcasm in the above statements, then I’m sorry. Actually I’m not sorry, because I felt it was pretty obvious, but maybe that will make you feel better and/or put us all on the same page. Good Day!

Easter 2011: The Big Sha-Bang

April 24, Sunday

This morning overwhelmed my heart.

I am often times found standing in my tracks, mesmerized as I experience the true faithfulness of God.

Today was another one of those days.

With a team of pure hearts to serve, who have been planning this for weeks and weeks, and knowing that execution needed to be flawless, the energy was super-charged. I actually had nerves, I was so excited.

5 AM seemed like nothing but Christmas morning as I gathered my luggage for the day and headed out (I learned my lesson from my first 5 am unload.. Sweats and no hair/make-up: there’s too much work to do to be done in all the Sunday morning get-up and it’s too humid to expect my hair to not be a fro the second i step out the door).

My usual office was blocked off so I had to shift to a different ledge opening. Dan was so gracious enough to share his office space with me, and i pretty immediately began taking breakfast orders. Alma went with me, which is such a help, and we returned to organize and deliver.

After my set-up duties (everything in place, set-up flowing, sound check checking, t-shirt tables good) I found a quiet little hole in the wall with a plug and a mirror and got to work.

By the time 10 AM hit I was so jittery. Just the thought of the many souls in the house this morning gave me butterflies for them. Because potentially, their life will be changed forever this morning.

The worship team opened with a U2 rendition of “Beautiful Day” and away we went.

The energy was hyped, the music was on que, and all was right in the world. I was super stoked when I saw the bowl around our sanctuary arena being filled like a chain. Just kept coming. And that brought tears to my eyes. All the work and no tax deductions and 5am at the mall, all so insignificant to that moment, when I looked around and saw a full house only getting more packed out.

God is so good and so faithful. And now, we rest.

Easter 2011: Love Reach

April 23, Saturday

Today was organized into teams of two, to go into the communities behind the Lakeland Center and reach them with love and information to worship with us, if they had nowhere else to attend church on Easter Sunday.

Each team had a different “territory” to reach and the dynamic duo of Pastor Marisol and myself merged with some of our youth.

It was a privilege to watch them speaking with a less fortunate community about worship.

Although they were momentarily traumatized because many of the families in the government housing deveopment came to the door with minimal clothing (hey, when there’s no air, you gotta do whatcha gotta do) it was a hilarious experience and was a benefit to so many families who were blessed that day and will be at the service as well.

Easter 2011: Great Friday

April 22, Great Friday


I can’t call today Good Friday because it was so much more than that. Istead I have taken the liberty of naming it Great Friday and enjoyed every second of our Good Friday service, which was unlike anything else we do at Free Life Chapel.

It was an intimate setting, very short for those on a lunch break, and so significant to what Christ did on that day.

Well not that day exactly, but something like it.

Seeing grown men with tears in their eyes because of the grace that’s been poured out for them will touch anyone.

They’ll getcha right in the heart, just like a child will.

Lord, let us never forget the blood that you shed.

The remainder of the day was walking through and planning and getting all those little tid-bits lined up.

(You know all of those flawless moments that just seem to fall into place and look sooooo cool…. ya, well they don’t just fall into place. Who knew. Crazy, right?)

Then video announcements in the crime scene area.

Then filming the crime scene in the crime scene area.

Looks crazy realistic, right?

Thank You Lakeland Police Department.

Up tomorrow: Love Reach

Easter 2011: The Preparation Pt.II

Previously on Easter 2011: The Preparation…

….So after much debate about the dangers of a young girl at the Brandon mall at 6am by herself and many restrictions and laws laid down by the powers at be of Free Life Chapel, guess who gets to rock out to Carrie Underwood with some Dunkin Donuts at 5 am? Ya, that’s right. Your’s truly. …

Upon arrival to the Brandon Town Center, the “crew” as I call them, were already forming their line. I jumped right in (a little against the laws laid down, but don’t tell – the rule was don’t be there with less than two people, and I wasn’t. But the rule also was to wait for the daylight to come before i got out of the car, and i was.)

BUT IF I DIDN’T THEN I WOULD HAVE LOST MY SPOT IN LINE AND IT WOULD DEFEAT THE PURPOSE!

So lets get back to the story and just slide right by that last paragraph.

The long and short of it is that they gave me the run down of how it all worked and also that they had all been lining up everyday for a week and got nothing (do they have jobs? Do they not have jobs? We don’t know) so don’t get my hopes up.

I sat in my spot and put my make-up on, checked e-mails, read a little iBooks, and waited until 8 when the mall employee hearded us like cattle into the next waiting area – a roped off box in front of the apple store – longing and lusting after the big white logo above the doorway – while the employees were inside just pointing and mocking us. Ok, so I made that part up but “the crew” was really getting fussy that they were taking longer than usual to reveal the daily delivery.

When the moment came everybody got all silent and a little awkward. I felt as if i were part if that old short story everyone read in grade school, “The Lottery”. You know where they all have to pick out of the black box and everyone is gossiping about the outcome. Fourth in line (big shout out to half way breaking rules) I got the fourth card for a 16G iPad 2, thank you very much! Only thing was that it didn’t have 3G access, and we we’re realllyy wanting our newcomer to have access to 3G, but I remained thankful, took the RSVP card and went about my business. I didn’t even say bye to the crew, they all hung around and showed each other their little tabs, as if they were about to get into the Chocolate Factory or something.

By the time Pastor Cindy hustled about, performing her many early morning tasks, and made her way to pay for the new prize, she just so asked in conversation for our sales rep to check the back one more time for an iPad 2 with 3G access and guess what – you’re not gonna believe it – yep, uh huh, he came out with a box in his hand.

So super pumped that that company never came to pick up their order, which allowed us the iPad 2, we were able to get the Mac daddy (no pun intended) – everything we asked for – with a special invitation for set-up so that the winner doesn’t have to randomly figure it all out.

Needless to say, Cindy Thomas and I walked out of that store doing the happy dance.

No seriously, we were. People were staring.

Easter 2011: The Preparation

April 19, Tuesday night

Tonight was just spent running around in search of iPads, bikes, Nintendo DS, etc.. only to find out that they were out or didn’t know when they were available (every Wal-mart, Target and Best Buy in the Central Florida area has heard my voice) or only had the most expensive version (convenient!). Then picking out two bikes, having them put up front, filling the buggy with 50 bubble sticks and 50 bags of play dough (which the kids are gonna love!) after the employee had to dig more out of the back – because what kid wants grey play dough – and of course was invited to experience FLC worship in the process, only to find out that it’s about a 10 year process for a tax ID number to be entered and couldn’t purchase any of it anyways.

Ok, maybe 10 years is a small exaggeration. But thats not the point.

All after midnight, i might add.

I love these kinds of nights.

At the end of Tuesday (I still say Tuesday even though it was after midnight.. I go by the “it isn’t the next day until you fall asleep” rule), we left with one iPad2.

BUT, a vital tip off that the apple store in Brandon gets a shipment of iPads in every morning and people line up outside of the store at 6am to see what came in that day – could be 20, could be 2 – and hopefully walk away with a new toy.

Therefore, after much debate about the dangers of a young girl at the Brandon mall at 6am by herself and many restrictions and laws laid down by the powers at be of Free Life Chapel, guess who gets to rock out to Carrie Underwood with some Dunkin Donuts at 5 am? Ya, that’s right. Your’s truly.

As you have read before, I LOVE driving early in the morning. I don’t love waking up early, but once I’m on the road and there is that eery calm, I couldn’t be better. Then it just gets hot and it’s not that great anymore. But for that “moment” it’s all worth it.

His Little Feet

I did not want them to leave. I don’t even know how long i’ve been waiting for this weekend, and like that *snaps* it’s over. Outback will be sponsoring lunches for the kids and they each have host homes. I am so sad the I couldn’t keep anyone with me, but my little apartment is just too small. My heart feels so grateful to be such a close part of Free Life Chapel.

I met with the team this afternoon before everyone arrived at the park to set-up and get things organized for Italian Ice deliveries, etc.. My heart is so over-joyed this morning at the opportunity to share this weekend with Danita and her kids.

Funny side-note: We’re all so excited for the kids and when we entered the park there were a couple of children who looked a little “wander-y” so Marisol approached them and asked, “Are you with His Little Feet? It’s ok guys, you can go over there and play…” and the little boy looked at her – just like an American little boy would do – and replied, “I DON’T HAVE LITTLE FEET!” and ran away to play, away from the crazy lady.

On that note, the two of us began our trek to Bartow to get the icees, a variety of Peach, Mango and Watermelon, which we didn’t think through very well because all of these kids are islanders and they all looked at us l like we were crazy when we said the flavor peach. Everyone wanted mango (obviously) and they were just confused by the others. It’s so fun to work with Marisol, almost always the highlight of the particular day. Marisol is so humble and spicy. I can relate to the combination of the two and I love to watch her take on ministry and how to handle it. We stuck the styro foam cooler of icees behind my seat, which we then had to push all the way forward and laughed the whole way back at how awkward I looked driving all smooshed toward the front.

The host families are all excited and I cannot wait to hang out with all the kids. Initially, they were so shy until I mentioned to Jefferson that I know Mami Brittney, and like a chain reaction eyes lit up and such a drastically confused expression came across their faces – priceless! “YOU know Mami Bootney?” I had to make believers out of them so I flipped open the handy dandy iPad and showed them a photo of her and I and they were all so excited to see her face. They are all set that we are sisters because “same eye. same hair. yep, sisters.” You can tell that they miss her very much. I took them to Facebook and we wrote on her wall, which was the highlight of Jeff’s day. I quickly learned that those quiet and shy little kids are definitely kids none the less!!

110%

Knowing Mami Bootney was apparently the ticket to break the ice because I got major cool points, and after that they were all so sweet and so excited. I was glad that they felt like they were amongst family this weekend. Jefferson and Moise stayed with Chase and Shannon and intense games of pool and Rory-fetch-games were played all night long, plus Jefferson taught me how to “blow it up, bring it back and slide” (it’s a handshake – I could teach you, but then I’d have to kill you). Later that night, the boys went to play laser tag – the next day I asked them about it and, they didn’t remember Chase’s name, what it was called, or who won, but they did know that it was so fun and had big guns to play with!

Sunday 7AM: I am in what will be the dressing room for His Litle Feet, waiting on the kids to arrive. I had an interesting conversation with Chrysta (HLF director) about missions and expectations and God’s word. I was such confirmation and comfort when my heart has been in such a place of transition.

Johnson is the first to arrive and he is the youngest of the group, and the sweetest 7-year-old. He keeps telling me a phrase in Creole and for the longest time I had no clue what he was saying. Then finally his room mate tells me, “He keeps saying you’re pretty.” My heart melted then and there and little Johnson was looking so shocked that his friend ratted him out. I knew that little Johnson and I would get along great today.

Johnson - the little guy in the front.

It’s amazing to me as the kids get dressed and prepared for worship, how the older girls mother the younger kids. Loudridge and Francia help everyone get dressed, hair fixed, cream on their legs, etc. They’re such sweet girls, purposely unattached, but it is apparent that there is so much in their spirits to offer. All the kids filed in for sound check and as soon as the worship team began their sound check all eyes were locked to the stage. They love singing and worshiping. Little Johnson came to stand next to me and laced our fingers together and looked up with a big toothy grin on his face as he watched, mesmerized by John and the team worship.

Their performance was so great! Everyone was so blessed by these kids and the fact that they were Danita’s was the icing. While they performed they were still such kids. I love how kids are kids universally. Some had attitudes, other were bouncing even when they were still, the little guys were nervous and the older girls were so confident and a sense of security for the younger kids. You could see them all as they performed, occasionally glance over to see if Mami Danita was watching them. I so admire what Danita has given these kids and how they look at her just like a mom that they don’t have. She is so fulfilling scripture and I hope to do the same soon as well.

Being the intern, it was my job to secure lunch. So I wasn’t able to stay for service, but no way I left before they performed. Got there in just enough time to get to Outback and pack up 23 lunches – chicken fingers and sandwiches – and get back before they all got grumpy.

I returned right as they were all getting restless from taking photos in the lobby and returning to their room to change aka to play for a bit. The girls stripped off all my jewelry and played with my car keys and took pictures with my phone. Everyone started goodbyes and my heart was immediately heavy, but excited because I knew that I would get to see them again soon. Little Johnson came over and I leaned down and he said with the biggest, most shy grin, “I love you”. I talked with the older girls and said goodbye to Jeff, who was still trying to unlock my car with the sensor thing through the walls, and walked out with them to deliver lunch on the bus.

Bitter-sweet, but one of the greatest weekends since we became Free Life Chapel on January 1.

*photos were lost in a “texting malfunction” so the photos here are courtesy of Karris Hudson’s Facebook page. 🙂