When I first acquired a passport several years ago, I had just been hired to work for a world renown, chart-busting rock band with an international touring schedule. I was a different guy back in those days. My sole mission was to travel far and wide in pursuit of the sex, drugs & rock and roll lifestyle — at any cost. I was blinded by selfish ambition and after years of persistent dedication, my wildest dreams were finally coming true. However, it didn’t take long to discover the harsh reality of the music biz big league. And I soon realized that there had to be more to life than worshipping and serving egomaniacal rock stars. I recount this “awakening” in great detail in my book,
C’MON! – My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation.
C’MON! – My Story of Rock, Ruin and Revelation.
In 2010 I was introduced to East Coast Christian Center, located in Merritt Island, Florida and immediately, my life was changed forever — and I’ve never looked back. For those who associate God, Jesus or even a church experience in general with notions of religious laws, unachievable expectations, guilt and condemnation, you’ve either been going to the wrong church or listening to the wrong people. FYI, it's ALL about relationship, NOT religion. And once we establish a relationship with the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, we receive immediate blessings — forgiveness, mercy and grace. We also can begin worshipping someone truly worthy of praise and begin to honor and serve Him — often by serving others.
Before long, ECCC Youth Pastor Bryan Moore offered me an opportunity to serve by getting involved with the church’s TNT youth program. Soon, I was receiving and accepting frequent opportunities to serve at ECCC. And in 2012 I was offered a staff position at the church — mopping floors, scrubbing toilets and executing trash detail. Oddly, this was the most rewarding gig of my life and it felt great knowing that my purpose, my true life mission was being fulfilled — serving the folks in my home church. Uh, not so fast — there's moore!
I instinctively knew that something was going on when my ECCC compadre Neil Migala handed me a book last spring regarding missionary work. He claimed that it “fell out of the sky” and he had “received a word” that I was destined to go on a missions trip. I had to laugh, as poor old Neil obviously had straight up lost his mind. Then, this past summer, I heard of a team being assembled to travel from ECCC to Nicaragua — spreading the Gospel while blessing the locals with food, clothing and other life essentials. A great mission to be sure, but not really my kinda gig.
Neil Migala enjoys fresh
coffee and stale hip hop.ECCC Associate Pastor Kevin Radlein remained steadfast in his effort to rope me in. “You are going with us to Nicaragua, right?” he would ask me, seemingly every time I turned a corner. “Uh, sure,” I would respond, and then sprint in the opposite direction. I confessed to Bryan Moore that the trip to Nicaragua seemed like it would be an amazing experience and that I would like to participate in a mission sometime, but that I just couldn’t afford to go on this journey. Standing nearly seven-feet-tall, Bryan just looked down at me and offered that certain look — part sneer, part smile — the one that he frequently gives me when he really wants to call me out, but possesses the patience and wisdom not to. He simply encouraged me to believe that my needs would be met. And in short order, ALL of my personal trip related expenses had supernaturally been covered. Yikes, this faith stuff works! I was now on the hook. I soon would be heading to the jungle of a third world nation that I couldn’t even spell. And after several years, I had to relocate my rock and roll passport — but this time, it would be a different mission.
Bryan Moore stands nearly seven-feet-tall.
(Clearly, I do not.)
Led by Pastor Kevin, our thirteen-member team congregated at ECCC at 5AM on Thursday, November 1st. By 6AM we had arrived at Orlando International Airport for our 8AM flight to Miami. From there we headed to Nicaragua.
I became a bit concerned after we sat on the runway in Miami for nearly an hour. Finally, a flight attendant made an announcement that they were experiencing technical difficulties with the on-board entertainment system and that our flight would be underway shortly. I was sitting across the aisle, from one my teammates, an experienced professional pilot named Tom — and he wasn’t buying the excuse being offered. “Uh-oh,” he muttered under his breath. “That doesn’t sound good.” But we finally became airborne and experienced no further difficulties.
Me, Neil Migala and Josh Grundy headed from Miami to Nicaragua.
Upon arriving at the airport in Managua, the capitol of Nicaragua, we had to navigate through Customs. The first checkpoint was a snap and I naively thought that we were home free. However, after picking up our luggage, our team encountered a second, more stringent checkpoint. I only had a carryon, but there were several additional bags filled with supplies that our team needed to get through Customs. So I was assigned a suitcase to bring through the second checkpoint — and I just assumed that the suitcase I had picked up belonged to someone from our missions group.
As I proceeded to breeze right through the second checkpoint, I was stopped by a Nicaraguan security guard. “Señor, Señor! Eeze theeze yor bag?” “Uh, yeah,” I replied with clear hesitation. Things were happening very quickly and my heart began to race as I was being pulled aside by armed guards who didn’t even speak my language. My worst fear was being realized — I was about to be busted at Customs, while entering a foreign country…
TO BE CONTINUED
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