Sojourn: Central Florida Bible Camp, Eustis FL

“They say the happiest place on earth is Disneyland. They’re wrong, it’s camp.”               – #campconfessions

Lil Jan and I had the opportunity to “winter” in Central Florida, doing two sojourns and a sojourn workshop while staying at Central Florida Bible Camp (CFBC) near Eustis, Florida. We had high hopes for our first sojourn and the experience did not disappoint. We’ll tell you about the CFBC sojourn first, and save the workshop and second sojourn for a future post.

Zip Line Descends Over Campus
Zip Line Descends Over Campus

Central Florida Bible Camp has a compelling mission. It “ministers to enhance spiritual growth in individuals and families, throughout their lives, in a setting that is experiential, close to nature, includes Biblically sound principles, and is enriched with Fun, Friends, and Faith.” It’s a beautiful 100-acre campus with outlets for fun in every direction. Campers take advantage of air-conditioned cabins, a massive zip line (at one time, the longest in the state of Florida), a giant swing, leap of faith, paintball, ropes course, swimming pool, disc golf, human foosball pit, and a giant covered pavilion with basketball court.

Sojourners on a Mission
Sojourners on a Mission
Zip Line Launch Pad
Zip Line Launch Pad

Our 50-person Sojourner team arrived in RVs from all over the country with a mission to do whatever we could to help CFBC accomplish its mission. Lil Jan’s assigned duties included pressure washing all over campus, cleaning boys and girls cabins, scrubbing down the chairs and tables in the kitchen, and a little painting in the office. I worked with a team laying wood and ceramic tile floors in the office (10 rooms) and also helped cut, haul, and stack firewood used for camp bonfires. Other team members constructed an equipment shed, repaired and installed electrical outlets, built a carport for a tractor and hay wagon, cleaned gutters and roofs, made curtains, trimmed and picked up limbs and hedges, cleaned A/C coils and ceiling fans, removed a tree, painted the office, removed and replaced several toilets and faucets, etc.

Under Pressure
Under Pressure
Laying Floor
Laying Floor

The work was tiring, fun, and rewarding. Even more rewarding were the experiences we had meeting new sojourners and spending time with them on evenings and weekends. Highlights included…

  • Hanging out with Denton and Beth Wiggains. Spend a few days with this fun-loving couple and you’ll feel like you’ve known them all your life. Together, we enjoyed several movies, meals, and worship services. Really terrific people…much like all the others on this sojourn.
Pigging out w/ the Wiggains and other Sojourners
Pigging out w/ the Wiggains and other Sojourners
  • Taking in two Mount Dora Christian Academy basketball games, including one with sojourners Jerry and Dorothy Escue and Dr. James Moore, the MDCA President. The team completed the school’s first-ever undefeated season, but then lost in the playoffs in a thrilling, exhausting 4-overtime slugfest.
Mark Gordon throwing it down for MDCA
Mark Gordon throwing it down for MDCA
  • Game nights featuring multiple rounds of Hand & Foot and a new game we learned called Pegs & Jokers. If you’ve wondered if competitive card-playing couples mellow as they get older, I can assure you they do not.
There's a Stirring Deep Within Me
There’s a Stirring Deep Within Me
Get a Longer Shirt...I Know
Get a Longer Shirt…I Know
  • The trash talking and banter between members of the floor-laying crew. For example, as I was on all fours “precision measuring” the wood flooring, Durley McLarty (father of Harding University President, Dr. Bruce McLarty) would lean over me and say things like, “If you had measured that correctly, we’d be done by now” and “If you don’t pull down the back of your shirt, we’re going to move you over to the plumbing team.” He kept our crew laughing the entire day and it didn’t feel like work.
Bringin' the Lumber
Bringin’ the Lumber
Checking on Lil Cleaner
Checking on Lil Cleaner
  • I had the opportunity to present two devotional talks about my upcoming attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. My fellow sojourners were very supportive of my plans, and seemed fascinated that one of their own was going to try such a crazy under-taking. One of them (Maureen) even offered to let us stay at a friend’s cabin near Blue Ridge, GA for a couple of nights before I start my trek. We plan to take her up on her gracious offer.
Training Partner, Ocala National Forest
Training Partner, Ocala National Forest
St Francis Trail, Ocala National Forest
St Francis Trail, Ocala National Forest

As my date to begin hiking the Appalachian Trail drew near, I went on almost daily training hikes around the wooded and hilly campus. Janet and I also did a 7-mile hike on the muddy Saint Francis Trail in the beautiful Ocala National Forest. She was happy to join me on this training hike, but reminded me that she is also happy to not have to attempt the AT hike with me.

The Townsends...Nearly 30-year-long friends
The Townsends…Nearly 30-year-long friends
The Leasures...Still Crazy After All These Years
The Leasures…Still Crazy After All These Years

As luck would have it, two long-time friends happened to be visiting nearby Orlando during our sojourn. On one occasion, we headed to the Fort Wilderness Campground near Disney World and had dinner with Kevin and Dana Townsend and family. We became friends with Kevin and Dana while assigned to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma in the late-80s. Janet and Dana both had their first children there, and even predicted our kids would marry some day. While our children grew up and left the nest, Kevin and Dana continued having children and are projected to be empty nesters around age 70. On another occasion we headed to Orlando to visit Chuck and Jana Leasure, friends from our time in Virginia. It was great catching up with them, and it’s always great when you see just really cool, fun, faithful people remain that way when you meet up with them years later.

Women of Faith!
Women of Faith!

During one of our weekends, we returned to our old stomping grounds of Brandon, Florida. From there, Lil Jan traveled with three of her friends to attend the Women of Faith conference in Atlanta, Georgia. For her 50th birthday, I surprised her with the tickets for her and her buddies. She said the conference was wonderful and uplifting with great singing, comedy and even a few tears. They enjoyed catching up with each other’s lives and having some good, quality “girl-bonding” time!

Lil Pace Setter
Lil Pace Setter

And Finally…“The Talk”

When we arrived in Brandon so Janet could go on her ladies weekend in Atlanta, our friend, Jaye Trovillion, was kind enough to let us stay at her house for the night. Upon arrival, Sam, her really cool, 81-year-old father, offered to give me a tour of the 160-acre ranch. Sam is a really interesting fellow and entreprenurial type who has done all sorts of interesting things, like running golf courses, owning restaurants and telephone/telecommunications companies, and raising cattle. He’s the only guy I’ve known who has had 15 head of cattle killed in a lightning strike…a story you can read about here…–head-of-cattle-in-lithia-78182

Charlie...El Jeffe
Charlie…El Jeffe

We got in his pickup truck and he drove me all over the ranch, explaining the layout, facilities, farming equipment, and cattle operations in general. As a person who has spent 50 years in mostly suburban settings, I was taking it all in and learning a lot.

He had me open a gate and we drove onto a sprawling pasture and through a herd of cows. They seemed to recognize him and his truck and were unfazed. We came to a stop and he put the truck in neutral. That’s when, after nearly 50 years of living and fathering two children, I finally got “the talk”. Yes, THE talk…the one that would have been nice to hear when I was 13 or at least before my wedding night. It’s not how I imagined it happening…in the middle of a pasture, with an 81-year-old man I had just met, parked in a pickup truck surrounded by cows. The talk went something like this…

Sam: This farm is all about breeding.  Are you familiar with that?

Big Steve (hesitates):  Breeding?  No, not really. Well…yes and no. I’ve done some…myself.  But not with cows.

Sam:  I hope not.

{a few seconds of awkward silence}

Sam: Recognize the big one over there? That’s the bull.

Big Steve: So he’s in charge?

Sam: You could say that. He services all the rest of them.

Big Steve: The rest are the women?

Sam: We call them heifers…or cows when they get older.  We’ve got 55 of them split up into two pastures, each with a bull.

Big Steve: So that one bull services all 25 heifers?

Sam: That’s his job…to eat and to service heifers.

Big Steve: He’s like a fat Charlie Sheen.

Sam: I suppose.

Big Steve: That’s a lot of heifers for one bull. When does he service them?

Sam (looks me in the eye, and his voice starts to sound like the guy in the Dos Equis commercials): When they are ready…they’ll let him know.

Big Steve: Like with a wink and a nod?

Sam: Not exactly. When the heifers go into heat, they emit an odor.

Big Steve: Like the odor when you drive by a Five Guys? I love that smell.

Sam: Not exactly.

Sam : In addition to the odor, when the heifers are ready, they will start to mount each other.

Big Steve (breaks eye contact and looks out the window): We should probably be getting back now. I bet lunch is ready.

Sam: Okay.

As Sam put the truck in gear, I took a final picture of the Bull (who I secretly named “Charlie”), and we drove back across the pasture. It had been a wonderful ranch tour and a magically bonding moment. I had finally received The Talk, and I felt like a veil had been removed from my eyes. My world would never be the same again.

Big Steve

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50-ish Things I’ve Learned in 50 Years

  1. God created everything. The evidence is overwhelming. Magnificent designs require a Magnificent Designer.
  2. The Bible is God’s word…inspired and authoritative. Basic-Instructions-Before-Leaving-Earth. It should be read, studied, and lived. I can’t pick and choose the parts I want to follow. There’s a huge difference in just believing in God and actually doing what He says.
  3. God loved us enough to send His only Son to this earth to die for our sins. Let that sink in a little more every day.
  4. Christ rose again and reigns in heaven. He’s coming back one day to take Christians home.  Instructions on becoming a Christian…joining his team…are clearly laid out in the Bible.
  5. The more you realize how much God loves you, the more you’ll want to follow the Bible. You won’t do that perfectly (not even close), but you’ll want to try to do your best…because God gave his best.
  6. If you miss out on the above 5 things, you’ve missed out on everything. Nothing is more important in life. Eventually, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Figure that out while you’re still alive, and preferably while you’re young.
  7. Choose the right spouse. Someone who has already figured out #1-5. You’ll be spending a lot of time with this person. Make sure she is someone who will help you get to heaven, and do the same for her. If she is cute, funny, and a good cook…that’s icing on the cake.
  8. Stay married. Be in it for the long haul. As much as it depends on you…one life, one wife.
  9. Get/Be good at something. Whether its plumbing, PowerPoint, or playing the violin, be the expert people go to for something. Then keep getting better at it and find new ways to apply that knowledge.
  10. Learn how to drive a stick shift, administer CPR, use TurboTax, and cook a good omelette.
  11. If you wait until age 50 to grow out your beard, don’t be surprised when it comes out looking like Spanish moss.
  12. Have at least one person in your life who will give you honest criticism and tell it like it is.
  13. Try to make a living doing something where the following 3 “circles” intersect: what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, and where there’s a societal need.
  14. Make people feel important. That starts by realizing that all people are loved and important. All lives matter.
  15. Be a person of unquestionable integrity. If there’s a rumor that you lied or cheated, the people who know you best should be certain it’s not true.
  16. If called to lead, don’t be timid.  Lead like a lion.  The pride will be comforted, encouraged, and inspired by that.
  17. Have a vision for the future—for yourself, your family, your business, your church, etc. Sell your vision every day.
  18. Be cheerful, upbeat, and optimistic. It’s okay to be joyful. In fact, we’re supposed to be.
  19. Take initiative. Don’t stand around waiting for others to act. Be the change agent.
  20. Invest in your kids…family time, youth group activities, etc. You won’t get those years back. Teach your kids to know and love God. Make sure they (and you) are in Sunday school every week. That’s more important than their grades, travel sports teams, scouts, etc.
  21. Appreciate the little things–the Moe’s workers who welcome you when you come in, the parking spot that opens up near the mall, midgets, etc.
  22. It’s okay to support a certain political party/candidate (especially pro-life ones!). But as Christians, keep in mind that our citizenship is in heaven and our leader is Christ. What goes on in your house is far more important than what goes on in the White House.
  23. Concentrate on fixing things. Enough people are already focused on pointing out problems.
  24. People who don’t smoke, drink, or gamble are generally going to end up better off than those who do. Rarely on a deathbed will someone say, “I wish I had smoked/drank/gambled more.”
  25. Give blood regularly.  When they ask where in Honduras you visited, it’s best just to say, “near Tegucigalpa”.
  26. Figure out what pleases your spouse.  A rigorous foot massage and doing the laundry may be appreciated more than flowers.
  27. Take chances, recognizing you won’t always succeed. The most successful people have failed a bunch. You’re more likely to regret the things you didn’t try than the things you tried and failed at.
  28. All things being equal, choose a dog over a cat.
  29. Read Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Then re-read it.
  30. Find a way to take your kids on a mission trip to a third-world country before they graduate. It will change their lives and yours. I’ve heard many young people say that it was on a mission trip where their faith started to become real to them…not just something they inherited from their parents.
  31. Don’t get too cocky about your winning pro/college sports team. You had little to do with it. Fantasy teams that you selected?  Well, that’s a different story.
  32. Dream big dreams. You might just hit on a few of them.
  33. You can learn a lot about life from your children. If you’ve done your job, you might even start looking at them as role models.
  34. Tell your family you love them. Then tell them that over and over again. You never know when it will be the last time you speak to them. Go ahead and do that now…then come back to the blog.
  35. Double-check your hose before opening the valve on your RV black tank.  Trust me on this.
  36. Stick with low-cost term life insurance and diversified no load mutual funds. Don’t mix insurance and investments.
  37. Never give up. Never, ever give up. Others will give up. You stick it out.
  38. Thank the custodial staff at your school/place of business.
  39. Get a will (or trust), Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will, and Declaration of Guardian (if you have kids).  Make sure your parents have done the same, and that you know where these documents are located.
  40. Work hard…but also take time to re-charge, take vacations, etc. Sharpen the saw.
  41. Choose your friends carefully and cultivate those friendships. You tend to become like the people you hang with.
  42. Think carefully before getting tattoos. The large skull and crossbones on your forearm may not be quite as cool down the road when applying for a job, holding your grandchild, etc.
  43. Apologize when you mess up. And sometimes even when you don’t.
  44. Open a Roth IRA by age 22 and begin contributing the max amount to it by automatic payroll deduction (about $15/day, or as much as you can). When you hit 72, thank me.
  45. Champion a cause larger than yourself. Open an orphanage. Plant a church. Adopt a child or donate to help someone else trying to adopt. Teach/mentor someone. Don’t have too much of your life be just about you.
  46. Be patriotic. Pick up a meal for a young service member and his/her family. Stand up straight and put your hand over your heart during the playing of the National Anthem. For all of our country’s problems, it’s still our country…and millions of people around the world would give anything to live here.
  47. Don’t be dull and boring at what you do.  Be creative.  Break out from the herd.  Have a compelling story.
  48. Don’t leave visiting the sick, helping the elderly, etc., to the elders/deacons/paid church staff. We should all be involved in those ministries.
  49. The two most important skills, at least in the military: 1) the ability to get along with and relate to other people; and 2) the ability to communicate (talking, writing, briefing) to sell your ideas.  Master these two skills.
  50. Keep dental floss in your car’s driver’s side storage compartment. You’re more likely to use it at red lights than at home.
  51. Focus on your circle of influence (feeding a homeless person) rather than your circle of concern (hunger).
  52. Nowhere does the Bible tell us to be “tolerant” of sin. We should avoid doing things that are wrong and, in a loving way, teach/encourage others who are caught up in sinful lifestyles. Hate (be intolerant of) the sin…but always love and be kind to the sinner. Pretty sure that’s what God does.
  53. Don’t worry when you go over 50 items on a 50-item list.  It’s your list.  It’s your blog.  It’s your birthday.  Say what’s on your mind.
  54. Worrying accomplishes nothing. In fact, it’s counter-productive. Spend that energy working the problem, if there’s something about the problem you can work on.
  55. Back up your home movies to DVD before they get brittle.
  56. “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” (Philippians 2:14).  But what about _________________?  It says “everything”.  No one wants to hear your griping or mine.
  57. Go on a vacation to the Holy Lands…it’ll change the way you understand the Bible. Also, visit Rothenburg, Germany in winter and do the Night watchman Tour while it’s snowing. Walk the ruins of Pompeii and tell your young sons this is what can happen “if you are bad”. Ride camels in Petra, Jordan and pink jeeps in Sedona, Arizona. Just get out and see and do stuff outside of your home state/country.
  58. Don’t over-spend on clothes. Do over-spend on high quality running/hiking shoes.  You’ll be putting a lot of miles on those feet.
  59. Make “Random Acts of Kindness” part of your DNA. Just do stuff for people and don’t tell anyone.
  60. A lot of what happens to you in life won’t make sense at the time.  However, you’ll be amazed at how many times you can look back on things that happened and see how God was connecting dots and bringing about good from the situation.
  61. If you make it to 50 years old, drop to your knees and thank God. Not everyone makes it that far. Then get off your knees and go on a really long hike.

 Big Steve, Age: 50

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AT Thru-Hike #3 – Julio and “Amber Alert”

“We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child.”  – Jim Gritter

“Adopting one child won’t change the world, but for that child, the world will change.”  – Unknown

Amber and Julio Colon are two very special people that we’ve known for about 7 years who want to adopt a child.  They have huge hearts for God, each other, and kids.  They are one day going to be AWESOME parents.  Only one significant hurdle remains…raising the remaining funds.  $6645 to be exact.  That’s where you and I come in.  Among my 10 previously blogged about reasons for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I want to try to help Amber and Julio close the financial gap so they can bring this adoption to fruition.

Before you consider investing in the future of this child, I’d like for you to get to know Amber and Julio a little better…

Q: So tell us about yourselves?

My childhood was a blessed one. I was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and moved to Cranston, Rhode Island when I was 6 years old. I have one older brother (Ricky) and two younger sisters (Rosa and Gretchen). My father and mother, who met in New York City, provided the best they could for their four children. My dad was the sole provider for the family as my mom was a homemaker. My parents always provided a safe, loving, and God-fearing home. Growing up in my home, we knew that every Sunday and Wednesday we would be going to church. As a young teen, I remember some really great weekends at church youth rallies held throughout the state (and sometimes in other nearby states). My mother made the most amazing food! (recipes and methods that I am happy that she shared with Amber). As I entered my high school years my parents were also very supportive of any extracurricular activities. Friday nights meant that they would come see me play football, or they would try to catch a track meet whenever possible. Deciding to go to a Christian University really impacted my future as it was where I met my wife, Amber. Harding University was truly a blessing for me in many ways. While at Harding, I traveled to Australia and Venezuela on mission trips supporting local churches. Those experiences really opened my eyes to the happenings of this world at a relatively young age (19-­21 years old). While at Harding, I also had the priviledge to meet Christians from all parts of the U.S. and even the world. To this day, my time spent at Harding allows me to have connections with brothers and sisters in Christ all over the country. I am now into my fourth year as a teacher at Foundation Christian Academy and just this year also became the Dean of Students. The school has truly been a blessing and has allowed me to grow as a person, a leader, a manager, a role model, a mentor, and a Christian.

My childhood was a happy one. I was blessed beyond measure with a second chance at family via adoption by my mom at age two and my dad at age ten. My Dad and Mom both worked really hard to support us. My dad is a full-time Hospital Pharmacist and unofficial part-time hospital comedian (one of the funniest men I know). He was a huge encourager at my track meets and Show Choir performances. He also encouraged me to join the youth group and introduced me to Church Camp (Highlight of my childhood). My mom is a Respiratory Therapist who spent her time making sure that my 3 other siblings and I had everything we needed. She hosted sleepovers, planned birthday parties, cleaned up after us and made sure we learned tidiness and manners. She would quite literally do anything for any of her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
I am the oldest in my family of four children that I grew up with, (three girls and one very lucky well mothered little brother.) I also have four sisters from my biological parents that I have enjoyed reconnecting with over the past few years. I grew up in Northwest Ohio in a pretty small town. My graduating class only had 62 people in it. We lived out in the country for most of my childhood. I have fond memories of running around in our woods with my siblings and cousins, building teepees, hunting for crawfish, and celebrating every holiday with both sides of our families. I graduated from Van Buren High School in 2001 and went to college at Harding University where I met the love of my life, Julio Colon, and graduated with my MRS. Degree. In all seriousness I left college about a semester short of my Bachelors in Business to pursue a career with The Buckle. Which as it turns out, worked out really well for us. (Sorry parent readers, kids stay in school as it might not work out as well for you!)

Getting Ready
Getting Ready

Q: When did you become a Christian? Who was the most influential person in you becoming a Christian?

Julio: I was raised in the church and do not remember a time when we did not go to church growing up. When I was sixteen years old I decided to be baptized. The most influential people in my walk with Christ have been my parents. My father and my mother have both set an amazing example of what daily Christian living looks like.

I was also raised in the church and have quite a few people who were instrumental to my faith in so many ways. Dauri Shank ,who taught me the basics of the Old and New Testament and showed me unconditional love during a tough transition when my biological dad left. Kathryn Kelly, who humbly demonstrated to me how women and their redeeming stories can be used to lead in the church. Ed and Claudia Beeson, who demonstrated transparency and boldness and showed me what God’s grace looks like in the way they were transparent while living their lives as a “Real” family in full display of the church as Minister and Minister’s Wife. Also, my Grandma Evelyn who embodied what it meant to be a Proverbs 31 wife and who helped me fall in love with singing and acapella music. Last but not least my father, Steve, who showed up, stepped up, and stayed. Without his influence and time and attention he gave me, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I also wouldn’t have known what to look for in a spouse. He baptized me on Sunday, August 18th, 1996.

Q: How did you meet? Was it love at first sight? When did you get married?

We met at Harding University during Julio’s Freshman year and my Sophomore year. With a group of mutual friends, we spent our spring break in Daytona Florida. It was there that Julio and I first began to see each other as more than just friends. We spent the next several weeks speaking to each other for hours on the phone. One Wednesday night at a church service  we held hands for a prayer (we still hold hands for every prayer). We spent time going to Social Club events, visiting our friend’s family homes and hometown congregations, and hanging out at Heber Lake. After about a year and a half, it became clear to both of us that we were better together than on our own and we were ready to get married. Actually, I came from our first date gushing to my roommate that Julio would be who I would marry!  🙂  In the summer of 2004, Julio hiked me all the way to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain and proposed under a beautiful pink sunset.

Q: Where do you work?

Julio: I am a Middle/High School teacher and the Dean of Students at Foundation Christian Academy in Valrico, Florida.

I am a Customer Service loss Reporter at Progressive Insurance in Riverview, Florida.

Q: What do you do for fun? Any hobbies?

Julio: I enjoy exercising and being out in nature. I enjoy working on vehicles and, in fact, do many of the repairs on our vehicles myself. Along with vehicles, I truly enjoy fixing almost anything. I will try to fix things that break in our home before replacing them. Recently, I have also taken to woodworking and have built three different types of tables for Amber as gifts. I also have a deep interest in stocks, investing and financial topics in general.

Amber: I also enjoy nature and being outside, exploring parks and hunting for shark teeth on the beach with Julio. I like to metal detect when I get a chance. I love to hike, canoe, and adventure out with my sister. We recently swam with manatees and it was insanely fun and intimidating. I have also recently began to learn how to fish. I’ve only caught a sunburn so far, but I still have fun. I have a little homemade sign/craft business called “The Polished Anchor”. Last year I did four local craft shows to help raise funds for our adoption. I love to cook and love to try new recipes.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to adopt a child? Was there a particular moment or was it a gradual process?

Amber and I have always wanted children, but deciding to adopt was a gradual process for us. Early in our marriage, Amber wanted to adopt before having any biological children because of the impact adoption had on her own life.  After a couple of years of attempting to start a family, we began to pray and seek advice on the matter. In December of 2014, we announced to our parents that we were hoping to adopt and began making plans to make it possible. Amber stepped down as a store manager with her company and found a position that would make the transition into motherhood possible. We knew that if adoption was within God’s plan that He would make a way for us financially. In August of 2015, with the support of our family, friends, and colleagues we began to raise funds for an adoption.

Q: Take us through the adoption process. What agency are you using? What hurdles have you cleared? What steps remain?

The adoption process can be described as a long journey. The process has its emotional ups and downs but in the end it will all be worth it. We are blessed and overjoyed to be using Christian Family Services as our agency. They are truly a Godsend and are a strong Christian support for both the birth mother and the adopting family. We have cleared several hurdles so far including: having our application accepted, having so many kind people write in reference letters, filling out all kinds of forms, meeting for the first half of our home study, and being on track to raise enough money to make this adoption possible. We still have several steps to go including: filling out many more forms, continuing to raise money, completing the second part of our home study, creating a book that birth mothers will view to get to know us, having a birth mom choose us, and filing legal paperwork for the adoption. There are also many little things that need to get done by the time we complete the adoption. Throughout this adoption journey, Amber and I continue to pray and hope in a God that has this adoption and all things under His control.

Q: What are the costs involved in adopting a child? How much have you raised so far and how much remains? Is there a deadline involved to raise the money?

Infant adoptions can range anywhere from 30k – ­45k.

Thankfully, some friends from church led us to Christian Family Services where we were so excited to find out that our adoption will be around 20K.

We set a goal back in September to raise $12,000. As of Feb 1st we have raised $5,355.

We still need to raise an additional $6,645.

As for a deadline, once we publish our family profile book it will be shown to potential birth mothers. We need to have the rest of the funds to match and then finalize. We are fully trusting God and His timing.

Q: You’ve done some crazy things to try and raise the money. Tell us about some of them. What’s the weirdest or craziest suggestion you’ve gotten so far?

Oh my Goodness… did ya’ll know Mr. Colón can do the Stanky leg? Video link:

Also, he can sculpt a flawless #cheekline
Video link:

We have been asked to make more dancing videos!! Including songs like “Hit the Quan”.

Q: Why do you want to be parents? Do you see yourselves adopting a second child further down the road?

We have been married going on 12 years and we have had so many adventures with college life, careers, reaching goals and enjoying every moment together. Now we are excited to become a loving family for a child and share life with them.

I see us adopting another and, Lord willing, perhaps even a biological baby someday (after all Abraham and Sarah were around 100 years old!).

Q: What type of family environment do you hope to have? Is there a particular aspect of your own upbringing that you hope to incorporate into your family life with this child?

Amber and I are both in clear agreement that this child (and God willing future children) will be raised in the nurture and admonition of The Lord. As children of parents that raised us in the knowledge of the truth of God, we believe in giving our child a firm foundation in Christ. We hope to instill in our child a love for nature and the beautiful things that God created. We also want our child to pursue their dreams. We hope to nurture both by exposing them to many adventures such as exploring state parks, canoeing, camping, enrolling them in athletic teams, Bible Camps, youth group, and taking them on mission trips (local and international), etc.

Q: Are you wanting to adopt a baby or an older child? Why? Will you have a choice in which child you adopt?

Lord willing, we are adopting an infant. Yes, we do get a choice in age.

We have given much thought to this matter. To be honest, we thought about foster care and that might be something we do the second time around. Many kudos to Foster Mommas and Daddies. It takes an immensely strong faith, thick skin and strong heart to wear both of those hats.

As for me, I am not sure I could face giving a child back. We are so excited to become a family and we couldn’t enter down the foster care road until we are certain that we are doing it with the right hearts and motives.

Future Parents…Let’s Help Them Get There!

Q: Will you get to choose the name? If so, any ideas for a boy’s name or girl’s name?

We are deciding the name together, although Amber has a pretty long list of names that she adds to daily with both boy and girl names. What are your ideas, we would love to hear them!?!

Q: Will you know the birth mother? Will the child have an opportunity to know or visit its birth mother down the road? What are the pros and cons of that?

We hope to have an open adoption. This would mean that we will support and nurture a loving relationship with our birth mother. As an adoptee myself (Amber) I feel that each child is so different when it comes to how they process their family story. So ultimately our child will make those choices.

The PROs of open adoption are so many. For the child, a sense of knowing your complete story and not having any secrets or shame to your story. Often times secrets breed feelings of shame.

For the birth mother, she has a chance to learn to trust her decision and heal. For the adoptive parents, they get a chance to convey their gratitude and understanding of the gift that the birth mother entrusted them with. We also get a chance to shine our lights for Jesus and love her the way that He does. There is so much negative stigma about birth mothers. We are excited for a chance to love ours.

The only CONs in open adoption are the risks of hurts and disappointments but at the end of the day openness, transparency, and love always wins.

Q: If Big Steve breaks his leg or gets eaten by a bear on the Trail and thus the pledges don’t materialize, will you forgive him?

Amber: Of course, but Lil Jan might not, so you had better play it safe.

Julio: Amen to Amber’s response! Also, remember that extra hold hair gel mixed with leaves and large sticks makes a great splint for serious injuries.  🙂

Big Steve:  Amber and Julio told me they are already “blessed beyond measure” to have your prayers and emotional support.  For those who are in a position to help financially, here are some options for you…

 1. Pledge a certain amount per mile that Big Steve hikes on the AT.  One cent per mile (@2189.2 miles) would come to $21.89, if I complete the entire hike.  A nickel per mile would come to $109.46.  A dime per mile would come to $218.92.  etc.  You can pledge by commenting on this blog, commenting on the Facebook post, private message, email (, or text (703-403-8492).  Lil Jan will keep track of all that, and once I’m finished , we’ll notify you of miles completed and amount pledged.  Then, assuming you’re able to fulfill the pledge, you can go to the website below to donate.

2. Donate a certain amount now, regardless of how far I make it on the trail.  Donations can be made at:  

Either option is greatly appreciated, but Option 1 will certainly give me added incentive to finish this massively long hike.  Thank you for whatever help you are able to provide.  Your prayers are especially appreciated.  And a huge thanks to Amber and Julio for their willingness to adopt…and allowing us to help them reach that goal.

Big Steve

Questions for Miss Walsh/Mrs. Wilkinson’s and Mr. Reeve’s 5th & 6th Grade FCA Classes:

1. Assuming Big Steve hikes all 2189.2 miles (a big assumption), what total amount would have to be pledged per mile to raise all $6645?
2. Come up with 3 recommended girl names and 3 recommended boy names for Amber and Julio’s adopted baby.  Compile them as a class and give them to Mr. Colon.
3. What dance would you most like to see Mr. Colon do to raise money?  Would it mean more if he did it in front of the whole student body?
4. What are some reasons you think Amber and Julio will make good parents?
5. Do you know anyone who is adopted?  If you are comfortable doing so, please share his/her/your story with your class.


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Landing Hard

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”    ― Nelson Mandela

“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”
― Emma Donoghue, Room

Landing Hard – Vietnam, 1967

The mission was simple—and dangerous. Ten soldiers were holed up, under enemy fire, on a small base northwest of Saigon. Captain Carl Bradford Johnson, an Air Force pilot, and his C-123 crew were assigned to get them out.

“The best time to do it was at night,” he recalls, “so we had to do it with a blackout landing, no lights on the field. We flew what we thought was the downwind, and the airplane would shake every once in a while from the war going on under us.”

The men below had set up two jeeps, each at one end of the runway, and on a signal, they would flash the headlights very quickly so Johnson could get his bearings. “It was a dirt runway, and it was wet,” remembers Johnson. “It was terrible weather. It was not comfortable.”

C-123 Provider
C-123 Provider

That was an understatement. Johnson gave the signal and saw the lightning-fast flash of the headlights below. “We knew that as short as the runway was, and being wet, that we were going to have to go in reverse before we landed,” he says. “You know, in the air, we were going to have to put these propellers in reverse. And we were going to land standing on the brakes.”

And that’s pretty much how it happened. They came down low and fast, touched down, put the engines in reverse, and stood on the brakes. When the plane touched down, it hit a hole in the runway, knocking the [wheel] gear doors completely off the plane. “We skidded around, and finally, we saw a flashlight waving to us. We taxied down, turned in, and we lined back up again [on the runway] because we knew we just might get a second’s warning to get out of there.”

T-38 Pilot Training
Johnson in Pilot Training

The plane’s engines remained on as the soldiers on the ground loaded valuable supplies and artillery (including a 105 Howitzer) onto the plane as quickly as they could. Johnson helped, then heard a voice demanding to know “who the blankety-blank” was flying the plane. Johnson looked around and saw an Army sergeant, covered with mud. “All you could see were his white eyeballs and white teeth,” Johnson recalls.

He grabbed Johnson and hugged him, saying, “I love you. I never thought I’d say that to an Air Force officer in my life, but I love you.” The sergeant had been in one of the jeeps, and when Johnson landed, he thought the plane was going to hit him. He dove out of the vehicle, into the mud, then he lay in the mud and laughed because he was alive— and help had arrived.

They finished loading up the plane. “Then we lined up and released the brake,” Johnson says. “And there wasn’t a soul on that base when we left. It was empty.”

Captain Johnson, who eventually would retire as a colonel, received a Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission, along with his co-pilot.  After flying 1003 combat missions during his 1-year tour in Vietnam, he returned home to a very thankful family.

Big Steve gets his dad back
Big Steve & sisters get their dad back

Note:  The above story was mostly written by the fine folks at Remember My Service Productions, based on an interview with my dad.  It will appear in an upcoming book entitled, A Time to Honor: Stories of Service, Duty, and Sacrifice.

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