From July 9th to the 18th, I had the privilege of visiting PX in Utah – the god forsaken land of mormons. He has been an excellent friend of mine for a long time, but we had never met in the flesh. While this was talked about a year before, I think finally we found a day where the timing seemed right. The primary setback was discerning when it was God’s will for us to see each other, which we both regarded as essential to our process of making decisions (Proverbs 3:5–6). Part of it just required patience, and an examination of when we’d be most available for hanging out with each other. The other part required recognizing what my purpose or role in being there would be while I take note of the patterns in dates and circumstances. As I did so, I think the primary purpose for visiting him was simple: be there for him when he needs it the most. From there, I realize that the three weeks of awe began on the 9th of July, which is notoriously known for being a bad point in history for the jews and the christians (not going to explain that here). This pattern in history also seemed to reflect a time where PX’s spiritual struggles were most prominent. Then given my spiritual circumstances, it just seemed like the next step in my journey. So for the first time in my life, I set out to travel to another state on my own.
To get there, I decided to take the Greyhound bus because it seemed like the cheapest route. Looking back though, I think that was a bad decision because I could have saved $10 getting there by plane instead. Never assume things when you’re dealing with money folks. To make my decision even more absurd, Greyhound has a bad reputation for its dirty seats, bad drivers, awful customer support, shady customers, and late arrivals. They give tickets for buses that may already be filled with people, which is ridiculous. My friend Michael (who escorted me to the Greyhound station) told me of an experience where he had to lay down on the floor to rest because there was no seat! To complicate things further, I had planned to stay until the 23rd but due to some last minute housing issues, I would have to reschedule it to the 18th for a $15 fee. And I was ill-prepared for the 17 hour trip because I forgot to bring some food with me! So you see, things did not seem to be looking up in my favor.
However, despite things not being in my favor, I was miraculously able to have an otherwise pleasant trip to Utah. Waiting for the bus with my friend Michael was great, it put some ease to an unfamiliar experience. To reschedule it though, I waited in line and as I was helped, the man noted that I would have to pay a fee and as I was getting my money out, he suddenly changed his mind near the end and said that I did not have pay. That in itself was such an amazing experience because it clearly revealed God’s blessing over me. By the time the bus arrived, the seating was quite open, perhaps due to the fact that I was traveling at 12 midnight. First destination was Las Vegas, which was not all that amazing to me, but I did like the scenic view of things. Throughout the trip, I had more time to pray to my God and read through a book called “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. It was quite inspiring though, because he went to the point of not even lifting a piece of straw without communing with God. This was exactly how I wanted my relationship with God to be.
I was finally reaching my destination, and PX was patiently waiting outside the station under the scorching heat. Thankfully, I was in the bus and its AC was good enough to keep me fairly cool. At any moment, I also realized that my bus could just have easily broke down as well, thus delaying my arrival. But God was gracious and I met PX face to face for the first time. You know that feeling when you meet someone face to face and he seems completely different? Yeah, I didn’t experience that at all. For some reason, it just felt as if we started right where we left off in our AIM chats. No actually, it was weirder. It felt as if this was something we had already done before, and this was just another part of our daily life. Of course it was still a new experience, but as far as our friendship was concerned, we’d talk to each other without any problem at all. PX provided me a quick tour of the city and I went into the mall to see if it was any different than the malls I had over here. Turns out that it was not much different.
Later on, he introduced me to his family and friends. It was funny though, because his brother was worried that I might be some serial killer or something and PX played off of that. He introduced everyone to me in this exact way: “Have you met my friend Gil, who is not an actual axe-wielding psychopath?”. This is a concern that was shared by my family as well, but I personally knew nothing would happen. These stories of online-to-real life experiences turning bad are the result of lacking discernment. If you’ve been around the internet as long as I have and if you have had a friend for as long as I have had Isaac, then you will be quite confident of your friendship. The other concern was harm that could come through other means, such as an accident or something of that sort. Well, that didn’t worry me either because I trusted that God would let me die if it was my time, but for now, I knew it was not my time. There are still things I must do, things I must become before my death arrives.
In any case, the Lord was gracious enough to provide me a very comfortable living space at his grandparent’s home. Felt like sleeping in heaven! Got the chance to really experience what it is like for him to work as a designer/student at a college. He gave me an entire tour of his city as well, which gave me some great photo material that I should be adding to WalkingChristian soon. I personally had some incredibly stimulating and insightful discussions with PX on topics like apologetics, Aquinas, hearing God, supernatural gifts, and some personal struggles that we have gone through. For the three days that I stayed there, I was mostly getting situated. His grandparents were especially kind to me as they would prepare me meals every day, something I am not particularly used to at my home.
The Camping Begins
After all of this, the camping trip began and I got to meet all of these new faces. I have heard about them every now and then from PX before, but I just couldn’t associate a face or a personality to them until now. The experience was very surreal, I have to say, because I have never went camping before. Everyone immediately got into the van together and here we were playing worship music in the car, and they would be making the silliest jokes. For example, one time, Corbin was goofing around saying he had a new song and he randomly struck the guitar and was like “Black people… FREEDOM… What a joke!”. We all laughed, not because we’re racist but it was just a friendly tease toward PX’s brother who was black. By the time we were at the camp, I helped get this large tent prepared with everyone else and we ended up breaking a few tent stakes with a rock. It was surprisingly easier to set up than I expected, though.
During the camping trip, there was a lot of goofing around. They’d play in the river and build dams, play football at the beach, or play capture the flag. This was all well and good, but I kind of expected and hoped that we would have spent more time in God’s Word. It seemed like the discussions were centered too much on worldly things like girls and movies. That’s not to say that such topics are in themselves immoral or something, but just the *way * it was talked about could’ve been done in a more godly manner. Some of the blame could be put on me for not doing more to focus on that, however. I was essentially quiet for 80% of the time, and everyone picked that up immediately. Just wasn’t fond of making jokes at the risk of being foolish and didn’t know about the topics enough to really participate. At times I would question whether I was of any use there.
Regardless of those issues, I did enjoy myself there and would gladly go again. Experiencing God’s creation for three days was beautiful, it provided a sense of tranquility, away from the busyness and loudness of the world. The worship music was engaging, to the point that our camp neighbors and the mormon camp owner came to hear us sing. PX had previously joked around about them coming and said we should put some chairs up for them. It turns out that it actually happened, which was an amazing experience. PX’s teaching on rising up to our calling was the most inspiring message of the camping trip, in my opinion. He just nailed it so well, it was clear that the Spirit was speaking through him. On Saturday, we had the best discussion on the nature of the anointing, how that applies to our lives, and the the difference between anointing and calling is. The prayer that we had during the campfire at night was particularly powerful as well. And as far as one on one goes, I had a very personal time with Jesse (the leader) and PX on how I desired to take my relationship with God further.
Some crazy things did happen on the trip. For example, there was this hawk that randomly dropped a half-eaten bird on the van. You could literally see the bird’s fresh guts sticking out, so we had to take it off and throw it to the side. Then Gabe found this very strange slug that almost looked like a snake because it was bigger than normal. He took the slug and put it into a bottle, put water in it, named it Horhei, and protected it like a pet. Then after it rebelled and refused to get out of the bottle, Gabe took out the slug and burned it into the campfire. It was really weird because colors were burning out and it smelled like crack. See what I mean? These guys are crazy! Poor Horhei. But yeah, I think these guys had some likable personalities and strengths as far as their spiritual gifts are concerned. They had a serious discussion on how they could further God’s kitchen toward the end and each one had some great ideas, which I was excited about!
Goodbye, My Friend
I cannot cover nearly as much as I would like to here, a lot can happen in over a week. The camping trip ended and soon enough, it was almost time for me to go back home. PX’s grandparents expected me to stay for a longer period of time, but I had already rescheduled my trip so it was too late. Their hospitality will always be remembered. PX and me spent the last part of our days watching videos on the Jewish Trinity, talking, and doing things at the college campus. At the very last day, I had a delicious meal with him at some chinese restaurant. My greatest moments throughout the trip was with PX, hands down. I just really enjoyed the quality of our discussions, it’s something I don’t want to ever forget. I noticed that one of the most common remarks about us was with regard to how well we got along given our similar interests. Toward the end, we had to part ways as I went back home and in a way, it felt like saying farewell to my own brother. Overall, I had some great experiences there and hope I can join everyone for camp again next year.