All The Gold in California. . .

I am done. I made this official today by drinking a Red Hook draft at an airport bar, and smoking Marlboro menthols with KJ this evening.

Our closing retreat was surprisingly amazing. I didn’t realize how much I had bonded with my Area, the San Diego and San Francisco staffs, how much fun we had together and how well we had gotten to know each other, despite the short amount of time we got to spend together. We had a blast hanging out the past few nights, going to dinner together Sunday night, staying up late playing Mao at the hotel, having an emotional processing time Monday afternoon, a great time of just us worshipping Monday night, staying up together and finally falling asleep at the church.

It was also surprisingly difficult to say goodbye today. I didn’t feel all that invested in this whole thing this summer as it was happening, but as I realized that I might never see any of these amazing people again, all that has happened in the last two-and-a-half months hit me. Tyler and I saw Ricardo off at 4:00 this morning, praying together one last time, crying. I saw Tyler and Stephen off at 6:00, and then rode to the airport with Becky, Ross, Ben, Brandon, and Jessica. We went to the bar and celebrated, said our goodbyes, and Becky’s mom and brother came to get us. They dropped me off at the Applebee’s in Brighton, Colorado, where KJ was going to pick me up. I said goodbye to Becky and sat on a bench in front of the restaurant with all of my crap, watching them drive away and just crying, feeling more lonely than I’ve felt in a long time.

It’s crazy to go from living in this type of community — the support, accountability, love, encouragement, presence that is so constant. And even for all the times I may have wanted to get away from it, have time to myself, for people to just leave me alone — it really is powerful to live like that, and when it is suddenly gone, it really hurts. I truly grew to love all those fools this summer, especially Becky, Tyler and Ricardo. Despite how we must have felt when we met each other, having nothing at all in common, wondering how in the world this summer was ever going to work out, God drew us together, and I’m walking away from this summer with a bunch of life-long, dependable friends.

I kind of hate the closing retreat because it makes me forget about all the crap we deal with during the summer and makes me love YouthWorks again. Honestly, last night I was listening to someone talk about a site in Wyoming and I was like, “Yeah, I could totally do this next summer and go to a rural or reservation site!” It’s sort of absurd. I hope I have a real job by next summer so I don’t have to fight about whether or not to come back.

So, I’m at KJ’s now in Greeley — he picked me up from Applebee’s and we went to lunch with his friend, Dale, who has been working with him on the book he wants me to edit. We had good, stimulating conversation about the relevant church, youth missions, and mega-churches over pizza with artichokes and avocados and cream cheese and tomatoes. We went to KJ’s church and he showed me some of the stuff he’s been working on with his youth group. He’s really doing an amazing job out here — it was just refreshing and encouraging to see a youth pastor who cares about his kids, who wants to challenge them and engage them, who is helping them grow, after all the jerks we’ve seen this summer who don’t seem to care. He also made me edit a letter his secretary wrote for him. With a red pen.

We hung out with his youth tonight at a Tuesday night “Cafe” hang-out thing they do. At first I was like, “If I have to engage with kids one more night I’m going to knife myself in the eye,” but it was good. His kids are cool, and it was awesome to see a bit of their post-mission-trip processing, just to reinforce that they get something out of it. I also got to hang out with an adult leader from San Francisco two years ago and just catch up with her, which was great. The bonds I’ve made through YouthWorks never cease to amaze me.

It’s been awesome to chill with KJ and Yendra at their house — all of which are awesome. Yendra is really cool; I like her a lot. I had really no idea what to expect of her, but she’s a really sweet girl and it was great to talk with her this evening. Their house is really cute — they’ve done a ton of work on it and have made it into a home. Instead of a TV in their living room, they have a lilly pond/waterfall thing with fish in it. KJ said that not having a TV forces them to talk to each other and hang out together, even when they might not want to. They’re working on their basement now, and I have it all to myself for my stay — a room with a big double bed, a bathroom with my own shower. It’s cool to see KJ and Yendra together — I can hear them talking upstairs in bed, and it’s really cute. I’m sure they have their share of troubles, as any young couple does, but they are cute together and it’s just nice to be around them.

I’m going to turn in early, being as I slept about 3 hours last night. KJ is taking the day off tomorrow and we’re going to Estes Park to hang out at cafes and talk about his book, and then I’m finding some way back to the city to my hostel. Train-ing out bright and early Thursday morning to Albuquerque!

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