Neoblogs: A New Home

We are currently in the midst of recreating our blogosphere in hopes to bring back the many neobloggers in the fellowship.

  • New additions include now a base site that displays all the most recent posts from current authors.
  • Linked sites for better navigation
  • Updated user functionality for both readers and authors

If you would like to start your own blog or migrate your existing blog back to our new home feel free to contact me at interns@neoxenos.org

Current users may also contact me for support with updating themes and looks for their blog site.

To access you blog site just click you name listed on the site to take you to your blog page, then just click the login link on the side!

UPDATE!!!!

As those of you who have blog sites may have noticed, you should have received an email to set up a new password. This was cause by a transition in our database to make future endeavors much simpler. If you have ANY issues logging in please contact me.

As far as linking social media with your blogs, we will be using Jetpack, you can find this on your dashboard. To do this follow these steps:

1) Log into WordPress and go to your dashboard
2) Towards the top left-hand side click on the “Jetpack” tab
3) It should go to a screen with a giant banner saying to log in with your wordpress.com credentials, along with 6 bubbles of options below it. Click on the giant banner to login and create a new user for yourself (its really easy)
4) After this go back to the previous page and click on the “Sharing” bubble.
5) Once there drag in the social media forms you would like, i.e. twitter or facebook. Make sure you are logged into those accounts. Then simply click the connect button.
6) Before you save at the bottom make sure to change the “Button Style” to “Official Buttons” and then on the “Show Buttons On” section, click the “Posts” tab.
7) Then save and it may take a few minutes to show on your blog, as always if you have any issues, shoot me an email (interns@neoxenos.org)

Joel

Joel grew up in a Christian home where truth was paramount. God worked to use his discontent for the institutional church and his pursuit of a PhD to bring him to Northeast Ohio and give him a vibrant campus ministry. We also talk about “project bankruptcy”, a vision for our church’s future, and reflections on his father’s life. We are joined by Chris and Kevin Baker.

My Story

Hey Everyone! My name is Trey Branch and I have found the secret to life and I just wanted to share it.

As you can probably tell by the title of my blog, the secret to my life is God. Why you may ask? well let me tell you about the adventure that started the beginning of my new life!

The Beginning

My life as a kid was rough and I hate looking back on it, however it has also been an encouragement for me in many ways, when I was 3, I was living with my mom and dad in Akron, Ohio and everything was miserable. I never got to see my mom because she was always at work while my dad stayed home and would get drunk, and high off of marijuana, and cocaine. I didn’t have friends because I wasn’t allowed to leave the house. When my mom was home I would hide in my room as my dad abused my mother into cocaine, and marijuana. Eventually my father went to prison, and my mom still being an addict didn’t have the money to take care of all her payments and her addiction, so we got evicted so we moved into my grandmothers house under the condition my mom would stop. Living at my grandmother’s was nice except for the fact that I still was incapable of making friends, not because I wasn’t allowed to leave the house, but because I had no idea how to socialize, it was never something taught to me.

My mother went through a period of many horrible boyfriends, and the memories from one of them I will never forget. His name was Carlos and no one ever has scared me more than he has. I believe he met my mom at the mall one day, and they really hit it off, she brought him home and he was really nice, we thought he was awesome! Well within a week that changed unfortunately. My brother and I came home late once from a friend’s house and Carlos told us we weren’t allowed to go outside anymore. My mother rejected saying that he was ridiculous and he threw my brother and me into our room and laid his hands on my mother, and that day we became victims of domestic violence, which continued for the next two months. He would force us to hurt one another, my little brother and I would be locked in our room for hours. As a kid the most insecure sight is seeing your mother crying and I saw that way more than I could ever wish! So after weeks of torture, and grief we were freed from it all. What happened was he left and my mother ran over to my grandmothers and called the police. All I remember seeing was my mom was leaned up against our door as he was trying to bust it open while the police where on the way. we never saw him after that day. I don’t know what happened to him either, but I just remember feeling weird being outside, it was almost scary to do so. Anyway that basically sums up the first 10 years of my life. What happened next is where my story begins.

The Start To My Adventure

What I remember is being at home in my room listening to music when my brother barges in saying that he was invited to go to a bible study, and he asked if I wanted to go. I said sure, why not? I would just be doing nothing in my room if I didn’t go. I went with low expectations due to the fact that my experience with strangers for the most part wasn’t really that great. What I experienced was the weirdest thing imaginable, and it was almost scary, I witnessed friendly people interacting with one another, and everyone just seemed to be friends. All I could think was about how much I wanted that, my only issue was I didn’t know how! Well I was Invited to go to the middle school group of the church, and I was more than happy to do so. I went and I made my first two friends and I was excited as can be. There names were Noah and Theo, and they were overwhelmingly nice to me, and seemed to actually care about my existence, and they were the reason why I kept coming around. I FINALLY HAD FRIENDS! It was so nice to have people other than my family that cared about me, and that I could talk to! I eventually started to realize that there was something truly special about these people, what was it? They seemed to have so much joy, they seemed to care about one another, and the hope they had was incredible! I kept telling myself that I wanted what they have, but again I fell at the point of, how? We were all at the main bible study, Called CT and our pastor Keith was teaching that night. It felt like he was speaking directly to me as he answered all my questions.

The only way to know joy, love, and have hope that works was through a relationship with God. YES PLEASE! That is what I thought as I listened to the teaching and fortunately for me he lead all of us in prayer that didn’t have a relationship with God that wanted one and my journey and my life officially began on June 26, 2010.

-thanks for reading!

Joni & Friends 2019

I just got back from a mission trip to Joni & Friends Family Retreat in Shawnee, Ohio. Our team consisted of 18 people with a mix of high school students and adult leaders. Once there, we joined dozens of other volunteers to help serve people with disabilities and their families.

Trip Details

To start, I’ll just say the week was both incredibly tiring and rewarding. The two can’t be separated. I’ve been on a decent amount of mission trips now and this was probably the most physically and emotionally demanding. Yet, at the same time, I have to say it was also the most impactful. I’m really proud of our team for persevering and showing God’s love all throughout the week even though it was not easy.

The first day and a half was spent training and getting ready for the families to come. The first day, we arrived around three in the afternoon and were going nonstop until around 10 at night. Joni & Friends does a good job of getting new people ready for learning how to serve people affected by all sorts of disabilities. They take you through training stations with knowledgeable leaders who have been doing it for a long time. One of the more helpful (and eye-opening) parts of the training was during our first meal together. Everyone is paired with someone and one person in the pair is “given” a disability they have to “live with” for the duration of the meal. The other person then helped their partner get their food and eat all while trying to do the same themselves. Some examples of the disabilities were blindness, autism (high-functioning and low-functioning), cerebral palsy, and down syndrome.

Moving forward, the second morning we were given our assignments for the week. Many of us were paired with a child or adult with a disability, while others were paired with a “typical” sibling of someone with a disability. Some people had other roles as well, but everyone from our team had one of those two. Once given your assignment, the rest of the week you essentially are to stick with that person at all times. Be their friend, be their helper, be whatever they need you to be. The only exceptions were a two hour break time from 4:30-6:30. The rest of the time, meals included, you were with that person. This is designed so each person has someone who is helping them and loving them, but also so the parents can feel safe to go and relax/do activities without having to watch over their children like they have to do most of their lives.

It was beautiful to see our people (and all the others) jump at the chance to serve one individual with all they have for an entire week. We really had no idea what we were getting into, but from what I saw our team didn’t hesitate to love a stranger like Jesus loves them.

Throughout the week, the camp had many activities and things to do both for the campers and for their families. Each STM (short-term-missionary, that’s what we were called) was told to just do whatever their camper wanted- it wasn’t about us. So, some people swam for literally hours every day. Some people, like me, never swam but sat poolside or walked around most of the day. It really just depended on who your camper was, their age and personality, their disability, and what they wanted to do. It wasn’t about us.

For me, I was paired with a twenty year old who has autism and is nonverbal. Since he is what they call a “runner,” I was one of four people with him and we took shifts running (really, speed-walking) around the lodge throughout the week. He had his routes he would do over and over while he made pit stops at places like the stairs, the elevator, a couch in the dining room so he could watch the kitchen staff work, and his favorite- sitting by the pool. Apparently in other years he swam a lot himself, but this year he never wanted to get in. So, we watched people swim. A lot. To be honest, it was hard figuring out how to love and communicate with a person who can’t speak back. I don’t think I was great at it, but I kept trying and developed so much compassion for this individual. Just by being with him for a week and doing what he likes to do, I learned how he communicates (little noises, hitting your hand away, “laughing,” head movements, etc) and what he likes (lots and lots of bacon, sausage is okay, french fries, fruit snacks). There were times where he didn’t like anything for a meal so he literally just didn’t eat. That was hard on his mom and us STM’s with him.

We got to know his mom a lot, too. I won’t share a lot of that, but a big part of the trip is forming relationships with both the people with disabilities and their families. It’s hard to fathom the difficulties they face on a daily basis but it was beautiful to see the courage, vulnerability, and faith they expressed.

One example of an awesome event during the week was the talent show. People signed up throughout the week, and once the event hit it was an instant success. I think the coolest part of it was how transparent and excited the campers were about getting to participate. So often we (or me, at least) put up walls and fronts and can’t let our guards down. These guys and girls did not have that problem, and were just willing to simply enjoy life in the moment. I seriously learned so much from them. Many tears were shed that night.

I think the hardest part of the trip was leaving. Many of the campers had a really difficult time getting in the car because they felt so loved the whole week. Personally, I felt the same way. Even though it was a tiring week, it was seriously sad saying goodbye. As cliche as it sounds, the place was a taste of heaven.

What I learned

I’m not sure enough time has passed to fully comprehend what God was showing me this week. However, below are some things I’ve seen so far and I don’t want to forget them.

God’s love at its core is expressed through people. Sounds simple, sure. But I believe the reason Joni & Friends is so effective at showing God’s love is because each camper is given an STM for the whole week. It is daunting to look out at the whole world and figure out how we can make a difference at all. Shoot, it was even hard just seeing all the families arrive and thinking “how can we possibly love all these people?” BUT, it was not so incomprehensible to imagine loving one person- your one person. Many of us had a hard time doing so, especially with the campers who couldn’t give much back. Yet still, God’s love was shown and it was shown through His people. The body of Christ’s element was huge, too- and that cannot be discounted. But I saw the brunt force of God’s love being poured out through the individual, close relationships we formed.

You don’t have to know everything. I didn’t know much about my camper’s disability. Sure, I learned some beforehand and picked up things along the way, but I definitely didn’t know even a fraction of the things I could have. But I could still love him by being present and willing to be there with him no matter what that looked like.

Decide ahead of time. I think one of the reasons everyone was so willing and able to love their individual camper was because that was the reason we were there. We decided we wanted to be there ahead of time and therefore were willing to do whatever was needed to “be there” for our person. A big part of being effective in loving others is deciding we are going to be present, willing, and engaged ahead of time. God’s love is active, not passive. It is intentional, not just “go with the flow.”

God’s love is shown through families. A huge portion of the STM’s at the camp were families. Some of these servants had been coming to the same camp, year after year, for over 20 years. I was lucky enough to be paired with a man in his 50’s who had been there almost ten times, and the relationships he had formed there blew me away. He knew these people and cared about them. Not only that, but his wife and two kids were there as well. His dad was there, who he helped lead to Christ. His mom, who passed away this past year, also used to come and was beloved by so many. This got me excited about the potential of Elli and I becoming a family who decides ahead of time that we want our family to be about loving others. That one family impacted so many, and there were countless others who did the same.

There is much else I would like to say, but overall God’s love for people is breathtaking. Having the chance to play a role in that is better than anything else in this world.

Matthew 16:24-25, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Ben

Ben’s story is the epitome of the Lord’s eyes searching for people who’s hearts are committed to him. Although he grew up a world away, the Lord brought him to the Unites States and has transformed his life to give him the purpose and meaning he longed for.

Elli

Elli grew up a princess but she couldn’t make relationships work. Then God worked through others to show her true purpose comes from knowing Jesus and putting his priorities first even in difficult times.

Nick

After years of seeking fulfillment on his own terms through drinking, wrestling, and candy, God broke through to Nick. Now, he is learning a new language of dependence on Jesus filled with purpose and adventure.