I’ve been back home now for a couple of days, but wanted to finish sharing my thoughts and pics from the trip…

The day after our stop in Albany, we woke up early and started our drive to Portland, OR, for our next youth worker meet-up at Chuck Bomar’s Colossae Church plant (technically in a suburb just south of Portland: Tigard).  We arrived early enough to enjoy some time at a local Panera’s to catch up on e-mail and the Interwebs.  Next door, Adam found a Famous Dave’s restaurant and ordered an amazing meal for the youth worker lunch, which we jokingly referred to as a “meat-up”.  Man, was it good!

Again, it was great hearing from youth workers who are passionate about their call to love students.  One trend that we kept on hearing was that student pastors are overall moving away from program-driven ministries to more organic and missional approaches: plugging in students to small groups and trying to get them involved in hands on ministry.  One quote that stuck out for me: “Would non-believers notice if your church [student ministry] wasn’t there?”  A good question to ask.  What are our students doing to affect the lives of those next to them?  Are we challenging them to be disciples in their own community?

Youth workers expressed the reality that the region they are reaching out to — the Pacific North West — is typically a hard place to reap a kingdom harvest.  Because of that, we saw many youth workers who were VERY passionate about their callings.  They have to be, or they would give up. It was great connecting with Erik, Aaron, Ben, and others.

That afternoon, Adam and I took off for a quick drive around downtown Portland.  We ended up stopping at Voodoo Doughnuts, a place that Adam had seen on the Food Network and wanted to check out.  The place definitely has it’s own unique feel to it.  We saw lots of interesting people hop in and out during our brief stay there.  The donuts were very rich and filling.  Check out what Adam ordered: a bacon-garnished maple long-john and a jelly-filled monster dude…  so fun!

That evening, Ben took us to a movie house that served food, beer, and popcorn at tables while you watch the show.  A very cool experience.  Although, none of us were too impressed with John Travolta’s acting in “From Paris With Love”.  Did anyone else see that?  What did you think?  We decided that we like it better when Travolta dances!

The next day we drove to a Youth Dynamics (YD) ranch in Plain, WA.  YD is a regionally focused parachurch ministry that reaches out to kids through community, outdoor adventures, and ranch programs.  Their plan was to take Adam and myself on a whitewater rafting experience on the Wenatchee River.  We were a bit scared; the weather outside looked like this on the drive up… (that’s SNOW, if you can’t make it out)

But then we got to the ranch and it looked like this… (much better!)

It was a very beautiful place.  We connected with several youth workers while there, including: Stuart, Heather, and Jonas and many more.

The rafting experience itself?  What a blast!  It had been years since I had been on one and coming back to it as an adult had me a little shakey.  Eventually, I caught on again and felt comfortable — even relaxed.  The executive director of YD, Mark Moder, was on the raft with us, and lots of good discussion about student ministry was had… in between a few splashing games and the rapids, that is.

NOTE: I’m doing you a favor by not including pics of us in our wet suits!  Stuart drove us back to his house for the evening; he had this crazy girl on the hood of the YD van…

We also stopped at a couple of local “mega-churches” on the way…

Heather gives her “thunbs up!” endorsement to this one…

That evening and the next morning we got to spend some more time with Stuart, Heather, and their families.  Awesome, awesome peeps!  We really had a great time with them.

The last day of meet-ups was scheduled in Seattle, WA.  We ordered some food from Gretchen’s Kitchen, a local place that we were told was just a few short blocks from the SPU campus, where our meet-up was for the afternoon.  We arrived on campus just in time and I set out to go get the food.  After the GPS device took me a couple miles AWAY from the campus, I turned around, decided that the “S” part on the address must have been a mis-type.  I started back to the campus and stared asking everybody on campus if they knew where this place was.  Everyone should know if it’s “right on the campus”, right?  Wrong!  NOBODY seemed to know where this place was.

I started texting Adam and asked him to hook me up with the phone number to this place.  I called and found out that Gretchen’s was located almost eight miles away from our location!  In the middle of downtown, industrial Seattle.  I got the GPS set up again and went right to the place to pick up our order, arriving back just in time.  The discussion was still going strong and Adam had to politely bring it to a hault so that everyone could have their box lunches.  I was greeted with applause when I came through the doors.  It had taken me literally an hour and a half through all of my inner-city travels to find the food and get it back!  I guess Adam was giving them a play-by-play of my progress, making joking/sarcastic remarks about the “South Dakota boy lost in the big city”.  Too much fun!

It was a pleasure for me to connect with youth workers I have long-known through only the Twitter-verse, and have the opportunity to meet in-person for the first time.  One of those was Leena at the Seattle meet-up.  After the meet-up, we had one hour left to spend in the Seattle area.  We asked our Twitter friends to help us find some place cool and fun.  Leena pointed us to the Fremont Troll, where we recorded our last video update.  Check it out… pretty wild!

For our final overnight stay and a BBQ/grill celebration of the end of our road trip, we met up with a handful of youth workers at the Youth Dynamic headquarters.  Bruce “Bronco” Huge came to serve and grill the burgers for us.  His name preceded him.  I guess he’s kind of an epic youth worker/leader in the Northwest region.  He’s got my respect, having selflessly served in ministry to teenagers for decades. Here’s the wood cabin YD headquarters…

The cabin had a great look and feel going for it on the inside also…

I loved the pictures that were posted on almost every wall…

That evening, a Adam and I sat and chatted with two youth workers eager on getting a student ministry Network started in their area, I remembered why I love student ministry so much.  To see and hear the passion in the cabin that night was life-giving.  I’m so very thankful that Adam opened up the invitation for me to go on this journey.  What a blessing it was to me and to so many other youth workers (probably close to 100-in-all) to be a part of this endeavor.

I’ve been a fan of Youth Specialties (YS) since our first National Youth Workers Convention in 2001.  They have been faithfully encouraging and resourcing youth pastors for years and it was so cool to put a face on youth ministry and drive up along the coast hearing so many real-life stories.  It is my hope and prayer that YS will still be doing this many years from now.

Shawn Michael

Husband, father, musician, pastor, Internet junkie, and Foursquare District NextGen Rep for the Gateway District