Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Recap of Japan!!

I'm currently sitting in the middle of the Reynolda trails thinking back on my amazing journey through Vietnam. You would think that after being back in the States for a week and a half I would at least halfway processed all that experienced on my trip. You would also think that I have had plenty of time to write my reflections down and post them to my blog. Truth be told, I don't know that I will ever be able to process all that has happened to me over the past month. I don't want to just close this chapter in my life and move on; I want to continue reliving those wonderful moments with even better friends. This is something I will never forget and will still be telling my grandchildren about some day!

Now, let's get back to that recap...

When I last posted during my trip, I was hanging out in my hotel in Japan. I got an awesome night's rest; I mean that was one of the best beds I've ever slept in! I woke up ready to take on my 8 hour tour of Narita. I met Katsumi, my tour guide, at 8 o'clock to begin the tour with a family traveling to Hong Kong. We visited many wonderful places, and Katsumi was so informative about Japanese history and current events. We began by visiting the Narita fish market. It was strange, but it didn't even smell all that bad there; it was pretty cool! We then walked along a small street to the Nartisan Shinshoji Temple. Along the way we made a pit stop at a very popular Japanese sweets shop. Katsumi explained the sweet making process, involving seaweed, and pointed out the best selections. I'm not sure what I ate, but coupled with the complementary green tea, it was quite tasty!
Next up, we went to the actual temple! According to Katsumi, the temple grounds cover over 50 acres, and it is one of the most important Buddhist temples in all of Japan. This was easily the best part of the tour. Everything was so well-kept and absolutely beautiful! I was even able to sit in on a real Buddhist fire ceremony!
Katsumi then drove us around rice fields and explained the Japanese rice farming system. We then had the privilege to visit a remake of the old Tokyo during the days of the Samurai. This museum type area is what you see in most Samurai movies. It is also super educational as it is very hands-on.
Sadly, the tour soon came to end, but Katsumi was nice enough to drop me off right at my terminal so that I wouldn't get lost using the rail system again!

Here are a few photos from Japan. Most of these are lost in cloud, and "No one understands the cloud!"

Next up on the recap, Ho Chi Minh City. Fair warning, as I progress further in talking about Vietnam, I will become more and more emotional. I hope to show you why! God made big moves in my life on this trip y'all! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Few Long Awaited Entries!

So, I failed pretty miserably in terms of blogging throughout my time in Vietnam. I do, however, have a great explanation for that, not an excuse, I'm not big on those, but an explanation.

Here goes....Vietnam stole my heart. That is all; that's why I didn't blog like I said I would.

Seriously, I feel in love with a place I never before imagined I would travel to and a people I never dreamed I would meet. Each day was filled new adventures, challenges, weird foods, crazy bus rides, and really hard lesson plans (more on that later). It was AMAZING, but it was also supa dupa (more on this later too) exhausting!

So, here's what it boils down to. I was normally far too tired to even think of opening my tablet to write out the day's events and my whirlwind emotions, but even when I did have the energy to write, I didn't want to. I didn't want to, because I didn't want to miss a thing. I wanted to soak up as much of Vietnam, my kids, my new friends, and this awesome culture as I possibly could in three short weeks. Therefore, the blog was pushed to the side.

You know what? I'm so glad I pushed it to the side! God had really awesome things for me to experience and be a part of at all times of the day! I didn't miss them, and now, I can sit here with a heart full of joy and mind full of reflection prepared to tell you my story.

I will tell you, that I will probably never be able to express what I experienced over the past month just how I really want to. I think you just have to be there. It's one of those things that really impacts your life in an incredibly awesome way. I'll do my best to tell you all about it though, because this is a story worth telling a million times over!

Here are some links to videos with our pictures from the trip in them. The first one was made by our American director, Oyuki, and it contains photos of all the coaches. The next one is one I made myself. I am missing some photos from Japan and Ho Chi Minh City, including the war museum; so, that's quite disappointing (you can ask my mom). They are lost somewhere in the cloud, and "No one understands the cloud!" Maybe they'll come back someday. I don't know, but in the meantime, enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Arrival to Japan!

Well, the first long leg of my journey to Vietnam is complete! We arrived in Japan at 8:00 pm Japanese time, 7:00 am east coast time.
The flight ended up being about 12.5 hours long on a Boeing 777-300R,  which is a huge plane. I was in a window seat, which was nice for sleeping but terrible for moving around. All that matters though is that I made it!
I'd also like to say that ANA, the Japanese airline, has the best customer service I have ever experienced. The flight attendants had a smile on their faces at all times and constantly walked the aisles to refill green tea and improve your comfort. The airplane food was also surprising good and quite filling. We even got ice cream for desert; so, you know I was happy.
As we neared Japan, my heart rate began to quiken. I realized that I would be going through customs in a foreign country all by myself and then finding my hotel in the dark all by myself. I just asked God to give me the strength, and with the help of many kind airline workers, I made it through customs and onto the right train.
The journey from the train to my hotel was another story....
I could literally see my hotel from the train; so, I thought I would be fine. Well, after lugging my suitcase down numerous stairs, I went out the wrong side of the train station. I was so desperate that I had use Google Maps on my phone. I guess I was just nervous because it was dark and I was alone, but again, God provided. After working up an intense sweat navigating many side streets, I arrived at the Richmond Hotel Narita.
It is a very nice and super clean hotel! My room is really small and I am still struggling to understand the toilets, but it's pretty cool!
Now, I'm watching some Japanese news channel. I have no idea what they're saying, but oh well! I have an early morning tour of Narita with Katsumi tomorrow morning. So; it's off to bed for me now!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What's Next?

So, God has big things going on for me now. I am currently sitting in the Chicago airport waiting on my flight to Tokyo, Japan where I will layover before heading to Vietnam. I cannot wait to apply all that I learned at UTC throughout this trip of teaching and coaching.

I can be reached via Skype (Keri Fulp), email, Google hangouts ( or, whatsapp (Keri Fulp), as well as by phone. My global plan is quite pricey though; so, I don't plan on using my phone very much! I will try to keep you updated through social media and here on the blog!

Prayers will be greatly appreciated! God is good, all the time! And all the time, God is good!

A Recap of UTC

Well, I originally said I would blog about UTC nearly every night. That didn't happen! Not only was I exhausted, but I also needed time to digest everything in was taking in.

So, where do I even begin?

Millesa and I arrived safely at camp last Sunday, May 25th. That night, we enjoyed meeting our discussion groups for the week, playing minute to win it games as a part of the UTC social, and going all out in worship (I mean, like crazy all out!).

Monday morning began with a 7 am breakfast and a quick walk back to Ingersoll Hall for our first principle (Athletes in Action in based on five key principles which involve faith and sport). For each principle presentation at camp there was a pregame segment in which each camper went to a quiet place, mine being under a shady tree, and read a passage from scripture while answering personal, applicable questions. Then, one of our camp directors would speak on the topic. The application phase was next in the form of volleyball labs (games which tested our application of the principle)

Principle 1: Audience of One
AO1 asks the question "Who or what do I worship?" I have to smile looking back on this question now. I went in to this session thinking, "Well duh! I only worship God, not basketball!" Turns out, I was terribly wrong. I had this naive notion of worship that AO1 would soon shatter.
We focused on Elijah and the prophets of Baal. We applied this scripture to the idea of sport as an idol versus sport as an opportunity for worship. Sport is an idol when God is used as a type of good luck charm, when you compete to prove your worth, when you only give 100% when someone important is watching, and when you are jealous of other's success, among others. Talk about getting the wheels turning! I thought that since I had been struggling with basketball and my desire on the court, that it was not my idol. Wrong!
I'm so glad this notion of mine was turn apart, because I now know how to use sport as an opportunity to worship my Lord and Savior. This is evidenced by finding worth through God alone, reflecting Christ's qualities through competition, being thankful for other's success, and being delivered and redeemed by God alone.
At this point in camp, through the volleyball lab and bbeyond, I asked God to do surgery on my heart. I knew that was what it was going to take. He went to work fast, that's for sure! Before we were ever allowed to step onto the volleyball court, we took a moment to talk with God and ask that He take over. It was such a calming thing to do!

Lunch and free time followed, in which Millesa and I chilled in our room. Principle 2 was to follow.

Principle 2: Inside Game
This Principle asked the question "What motivates me?" We focused on the story of the Prodigal Son and the difference between each brother's source of motivation. My big take away from this principle was your formula for your worth. The world says that your performance plus other's opinions about you equals your worth. This is a lie I have believed for far too long. We aren't worthy because of anything we do or anything someone says about us. We are worthy simply because of Christ's love for us. God's formula for our worth is simple. What God says about you equals your worth. Now, what does God say about you? We were given a list of 35 truths. I chose 2 that really spoke to me. I am accepted and worthy, and I have boldness and confidence. I have struggled for a long time with insecurities about myself. Not now! I mean, it is a process, but just holding onto these truths and Christ's love for me, has set me free. I have never been so alive and free in my whole life! It's an amazing feeling y'all!

Dinner and a night out bowling followed? Millesa showcased some new age bowling habits, while I rolled gutter balls nine times out of ten.

Tuesday followed a similar schedule: breakfast, principle 3, lunch, free time, principle 4, dinner, and a relationship talk.

Principle 3: Holy Sweat/Wholly Surrender
This principle asked "How do I grow?" while focusing on the temptation of Jesus and His full confidence in the Father. We learned to fully surrender to the Spirit of God through prayer and obedience and to surrender to the Word of God through Spiritual training by reading scripture. Lastly, we also discussed submitting to the Body of Christ by using a strong support community in our walks of faith.

Again, lunch and free time followed, but Millesa and I played pickup with some of thcamp directors and praise band members. It was the first time I actually relaxed to play pickup,and that was simply because of my surrender to God and the truths He has made possible for me.

Principle 4: Hurtin' for Certain
This principle asks the question, "How do I deal with pain?" as we focused on the life of Joseph sold into slavery by his brothers. Trials and tough times are sure to come in our sports and in life in general. What matters is how we react. We must rely on God's sovreignty even when our faithfulness is tested.  Plus, the really cool thing is that trials can bring about God's glory and our own good.

Dinner and the relationship talk followed, which was really interesting. Basically, we discussed how our hearts should first be for Christ's, not our significant other. As a couple, you grow closer to one another by first growing closer to Christ.

Wednesday morning concluded the principles and began the SPECIAL.

Principle 5: Victory Beyond Competition
This principle asks "Does it matter how I live today?" in the context of the Parable of the Talents. Essentially, God has entrusted us with many gists in the form of Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences (SHAPE). We must invest our talents with full confidence because we don't know how long we have. This confidence is found in the true victory, the victory on the cross.

Next, we began the SPECIAL. I'm going to make this a condensed version, because I fly out for Tokyo on my way to Vietnam in just a moment.

The SPECIAL is a 20 hour long crazy competition in which God chisles away at your heart and breaks you apart in order to show you where your true strength lies. I was a member of Team 18, the white team. We begin our adventure together by eating lunch and stocking up on granola bars, pedialyte, shirts, markers, and face paint at Walmart. We designed our shirts full of Bible verses, our truths, the principles, and our team name, Team Surrender (encompassed in a flag like the song "We raise our white flag, we surrender, all to you...). We also painted up our faces and wrote neat reminders on our arms of our truths. For example, I had "fully surrender" on the inside of my biceps and "warrior" running down my arm.

The competition itself involved 20 straight hours of tough work. The cool thing is that while we were competing to win, we were really allowing God to completely take over; that is what really mattered. Wednesday night, which didn't conclude until almost 2 am, included volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, tug of war, push up relays, wall sits, planks, swimming, basketball, and sprints. God really started to get me on the wall sits. I was really struggling, I mean I was screaming and crying. Two of my teammates were literally holding me up. But you know what? God was there, and He gave me strength to carry on to our next activity. It was also great to swim competitively again, something I hadn't done since I was 8. Knowing that it was all God and not me made it even better. Basketball ended up being better as well. It took me longer to let go out there. I guess that's because basketball is the sport I play. It will be a process, but I'm exacted to see how p my newfound freedom in Christ will allow me to worship Him through my sport. The night finished up with worship, not nearly as lively as earlier in the week, and a written team exam on the principles.
I then had 2.5 hours sleep before Team Surrender met for our 5:10am 3 milstrength, the sterngth le course start time. The obstacle course was insane! We had to run as a team while carrying our ark, like the Ark of the Covenant, a long 2×4 with a tire hanging on it, around the 3 mile long course and complete gruelling tasks. We begin in the wet grass with a long Army crawl. We kept our chins down baby! After that task, our v-neck white ts were green-brown super long long v v-neck ts! We experienced some difficulty at the jump rope station. We were there a very long time as one of our captains struggled with his specific task. At first, I prayed that God would give him the strength to finish so we could go to the next station, because we were taking too long. But God opened my eyes to what really mattered. It wasnt about the competition at all, God was teaching us patience in the times of f trail. Honestly, our captain was an excellent vessel for this message, as he kept the faith and a positive attitude the whole time. Other activities in the obstacle course included, up downs, backpedaling around the track, piggybacking around the track, lunges up and down a ramp, freethrows, jumping jacks/skaters/sprints combos, and pushing a car with have our team in it! It was crazy hard, but God gave us the strength, strength that was already in us of the Holy Spirit.

We were then able to get breakfast... Praise the Lord!!!

Following breakfast we had kickball aand crazy relays, and I mean crazy (sprints, crabwalks, chain runs, bunny hops, all for a long distance). That was the conclusion of the scored rounds. I think we were in 16th out of 20, but again, that's not what the SPECIAL was about.

We then headed up to horsetooth reservoir where Golgatha was. Golgatha us a half mile long hill in the middle of the Rockies. This task was for personal reflection with God relying on his strength alone. We were exhausted and the hill was sooooooo steep! I mean so steep the bus struggled to make it up! We ran down the mountain with a 2×4 at our side. We then ran up with the board across our backs held as if it were a cross. On my way back up I began to walk, my walk was actually faster than my run! I was talking to God, asking Him to break me, and finally as I was nearing the top, I began to run again. I said, "God, when I get to this blue cone, I am going to run and I will not stop again!" Not only did I jot stop, I was sprinting through the finish line carried by the Holy Spirit! God alone gave me the strength!

We then, sat in the mountains for a time of personal reflection before heading down for lunch, showers, and much needed naps. We competed for 20 straight hours simply because of God. I mean normally, in collegiate athletics, our coaches can only work us out 20 hours a week!

That night, we went deeper into the Rockies for a bon fire, reflection, pictures, worship, and for numerous lives being dedicated to Christ! It was absolutely awesome!

Friday involved a what now session on how to apply what we've learned by coming down off the mountaintop of camp. We got to Skype with Maya Moore; her faith was truly inspirational. The night ended with a great talent show and the craziest worship yet. People were crowd surfing, raving, praying, crying, calling out for grace (water at camp), and I was right there with them (except for the crowd surfing part). Worship became so personal, and I just felt God at work. we also had a chance to share about our experience at camp, which I did as God called me to while chocking back tears.

We then said our goodbyes to our brothers and sisters in Christ, which involved a of of crying and laughing.

Millesa and I then made it home to NC around 5 Saturday night filled with a newfound passion we plan to hold each other accountable for. We have a great opportunity to apply the principles and what we learned to our lives. Now, it's time to do it!

Sorry for any grammatical errors. I'm not a fan of those, but my flight boards soon!

I do want to say thank you to my family for making this trip possible and for supporting me. Thank you to my Westside family, my Wake family, and my friends for your thoughts and prayers. Lastly, thank you to Susie and Millesa, my two awesome teammates who inspire me to be a better person every day!

Glory to God! Ain't no party like a Holy Ghost Party!

Pictures are up on my Facebook and Instagram! More to come!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Catching up!

Wow! It's really hard to believe that it has been nearly three years since my last blog! Each time I thought I should post something, I found something else to do, but I'm back now!

It's also really weird to look back on my old posts. Sometimes I think, "Did I really say that?!" I mean, I really can do better! Still, it's nice to look back on the journeys I described, as it reminds me of all the awesome things I experienced and learned.
So, three years have passed. What's new?

Well, for starters, I'm now a rising sophomore at Wake Forest where I play basketball. I'm a physics major and math minor with the hopes of pursuing an environmental engineering master's afterwards. I also have grown to truly appreciate where I am from, the one and only Shoals, North Carolina (emphasis on the "lina"), which I'll talk more about in a later post. I love the outdoors and crazy adventures, like mountain biking, hiking, you name it!

I could go on and on, but none of that stuff really matters. All that matters is that I am a child of the one true King, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My worth is not of this world. Sure, each of those things that I love to do are great, but there is something so much greater out there. My worth, my hope, it all lies in Jesus, and call Him my savior, my comforter, my Lord, and my friend. My prayer is that through my future posts I will be able to share God's love with each of y'all. The experiences that I have had through Christ are not just for me, they can be for you too! He has done some really amazing things in my life already, and He continues to surprise me each day. To me, that is just so cool!

Now for the agenda. (It's like I only blog when I go on big trips, but here goes.)

My summer is packed with some really great adventures. This week I am at the Ultimate Training Camp for Athletes in Action, our on campus athletic ministry. There is more to come on that, because let me tell y'all, God is doing work right now! It is an absolutely amazing feeling!

After UTC, I have two short days at home before I leave for Vietnam. You heard it right folks, Vietnam! I'm traveling with Coach for College to teach and coach rural Vietnamese middle school students for the full month of June. I am super excited to see what God has in store for this journey! Of course, I'll keep y'all updated!

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!