After 2.5 years on my wonderful Adventure Wahaiwa blog I have moved over to a new site on squarespace! Check it out at katie-connor.squarespace.com !
After 2.5 years on my wonderful Adventure Wahaiwa blog I have moved over to a new site on squarespace! Check it out at katie-connor.squarespace.com !
I can hardly believe I have only been home for 24 days, in some ways it feels like I never left.
I traveled to the mainland with a very thorough and well-planned schedule. Yet almost every day turned out to look different than I expected. Thank goodness all the glory in my life goes to God rather than myself because His plans for my trip home were much mightier than my own. Some highlights from my trip were: visiting my grandparents in Washington, visiting my aunt, uncle, cousins and sister in California, spending amazing time with my family snowed in over Christmas, sharing about my life in missions and raising monthly support and visiting family and friends in Illinois.
It is amazing how many people I got to see and visit with despite the frigid temperatures and heaps of snow! I am so thankful!
But it is also great to be home in Hawaii! I could not have had a sweeter homecoming than having the kids waiting for me at home ready for hugs and love after a long six weeks away. At Surfing The Nations our motto for the year of 2014 is “Go Big!” and I am excited to go big in both the work and personal sense over the remaining 11 months of this year! The last 24 days have already proved to be very adventurous. Some highlights have been trying new Hawaiian food, singing kareoke for the first time, going late night bowling at a very “local” Hawaiian bowling alley and spend EIGHT HOURS at a Marshallese Church service!
There are many more adventures to come and today I would like to share about three!
First: I have been invited to help lead the Internship Program’s inter-island 10 day trip to Maui. I am so honored and excited to be invited to lead, and to return to Maui which is the island where I did my Internship Trip. I will be responsible for all finances and church connections on the trip and am excited to be stretched and grow in both areas! I will also be helping lead outreaches, organize food and housing and planning day to day activities. It will be an exhausting but fun 10 day adventure and I am sure I will return home with many stories to share.
Second: In April I will be heading to the beautiful and broken nation of Bangladesh on a three week missions trip. This is a trip I have hoped to go on for two years now and could not be more excited about if I tried. In Bangladesh we will be connecting with the local surf clubs, experiencing and learning the culture and giving back to the people in any way we can. My personal goals while there are to show God’s love to the very oppressed women of this nation, empower and encourage the girls to surf and enjoy the ocean and teach swim lessons to the young children. It is really exciting to basically take all the things I do here in Hawaii and do them in a very different and challenging culture. In order to go on the trip I need to raise $3500 in funds. Raising funds is one of the most terrifying and thrilling things I have ever experienced! It is so encouraging to have someone invest in you with their personal finances but it is terrifying to ask!
Third: My hope and desire is to be able to buy a car this year. I really believe that I am called to be here in Hawaii and I am committing to investing into my life here. In order to live sustainable and have the opportunity to travel and bless the children and women of my community in a greater way I need to invest in a vehicle. I am so excited to see how God pulls this one off. I believe it is God’s heart for me to have transportation here in Hawaii, but in my mind it seems like such a great expense it seems impossible! But I serve a God who works in the impossible and miracles are everyday occurrences in His kingdom, so I can’t wait for he day I write a blog all about how God blessed me with a safe and reliable vehicle.
I have no ability to “Go Big” on my own, but God is a big God, beyond our understanding even! So join with me in going BIG in 2014 and praying BIG and bold prayers!
“My name is Sony. I am 8 years old and in second grade. I live with my mom and dad, my older brother my older sister and her baby. I have moved three times this year in search of cheaper housing. I have been a part of the Ulu Pono Program for two or three years now. With Ulu Pono we make art, do homework, skateboard and go to the beach. My favorite is skate club because it is fun and scary and I do it with all my friends. This weekend was the Art Show. There was a big tent set up a few days before the show and I loved playing in it and pretending I was in the circus. We like to play at STN even when there is no Ulu Pono. My favorite game is tag but I don’t like it when people throw rocks. At the Art Show I got one “special hour” where I got to be partner with an Ulu Pono staff. We walked around and looked at all the famous art and surf boards and got shave ice. My favorite artist was Paul Forney because his art was funny looking with silly cartoon men with big beards.
In the room with all the cool surf boards was an old man. I walked over to talk to him with Katie. On the table in front of him were old pictures of a man surfing on very big waves. I asked the man what his name was and he said Fred Hemmings and asked me what my name was. I found out that all the pictures on the table were of him when he was young! I also found out he was a former senator, which must be important but I don’t understand what that is?! He was so nice to me and encouraged me to keep chasing my dreams and chasing big waves. One day I want to surf waves as big as he did.
Ulu Pono Kids had their own special section at the Art Show. In that section there was a picture of each kid and staff. There was also lots of pictures and stories of all the fun we had this year and all the different things we did. But my favorite part was the art wall where all of our art was hung up. This year we studied famous artists and copied their art. My favorite piece was “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. I also liked the abstract piece we did where we splattered paint all over the page, and the Great Wave. I was kind of bummed that my parents did not come to the show. But I was standing and looking at all of our art and talking to Katie when an old man came over and began to talk to me. He asked me which art pieces were mine and I showed him. He really liked my work and I asked him what his name was and his answer shocked me. Paul Forney. “I love your art it is so funny!” I told him! He was excited that I liked his art too. He said he wanted to buy a piece of my art for $10 and I was stoked! He asked which one and I said “both” embarrassing Katie a little. But Paul laughed and said he liked my enthusiasm. He bought both my paintings. I was so excited I could not believe he wanted my art! Every time my friends came by I showed them that Paul Forney had bought my art! With the money from my art Katie can buy art supplies for next year so we can continue to do art!”
The above story is written by Katie, but everything that happened is true. I just tried to put myself in Sony’s shoes and describe the feelings that he portrayed to me. The Art Show is an amazing event where the kids of the Ulu Pono Program get to feel special and worthy of praise. It is amazing to see the speechless when someone invests in them by purchasing or admiring their art. I am so proud and honored to get to put on this event.
Sony and Senator Fred Hemmings.
Kiana and Katie at the Art Show
C H A N G E
Often change, both wanted and unwanted, can vault you into greater depth. Over this fall there are some changes I was happy to see come and some I hoped would never come, but through all of them I have grown.
U N W A N T E D C H A N G E.
One of the most challenging things about Surfing The Nations is the turnover in staff. When you are accepted to be a staff member you commit to one year, after that first year you can then make the decision to either stay longer, return home or move on.
My first year ended on August 13th of this year. It is amazing how fast the year flew by but when I reached the end of it I knew my work was not done here at STN. But many of my friends decided that they were moving on, and left Surfing The Nations, under good terms but still sadness lingered. Because of their exit from my life, I withdrew from the STN Ohana for a while. I spent more time alone in my room reading and watching television. I was mourning the loss of my friends, as the relationships formed here in work, community living and life are so much stronger and deeper than average friendships.
My closest companions, guys I considered brothers and girls sisters, off to other parts of the World I was forced to rely more heavily on God. I did not feel I had many I was extremely close to and could go to with ease for advice, so I take every problem, worry, sorrow and joy straight to God. This freed me from needing the advice of others and drove me deeper into God’s word and into prayer.
W A N T E D C H A N G E
Around the same time many were leaving I made the decision to move off-property into a small apartment leased to STN for free every month. I desired to be closer the kids I worked with and have a home for them to come to. Not a week after moving and getting settled in we found out that the apartment was no longer going to be given to STN and we had to move out.
I had felt a great sense of God’s joy and peace when I moved down the street and was not willing to give up so easily. I met with our director about my heart to find another apartment to rent and she shared with me about one that was soon to become available and was owned by Surfers Church. My roommate Kirsten and I spend much time in prayer asking God to show us His will in how we were to proceed.
To rent the new apartment was over 2.5 times more than our current staff fees, and we had to find two additional roommates. We were scared but took the leap forward and rented the apartment. And what a blessing it has been. We have had the opportunity to bring over the Marshallese mothers and their children and get to know them better. The kids always have somewhere safe to do their school work, hang out and escape to when needed. Here in our home they are allowed to be children and be nurtured, loved, disciplined and learn about God. We named our house Hale Akua, meaning House of God.
Because of Hale Akua we have seen many of our relationships with the children and parents of our community flourish like never before. We are also able to bless our STN Ohana by inviting them over for dinner and movies and general fun.
God is eternally good and though I can’t say I always understand or am never afraid, He has yet to fail me. Change will come all through life and I can’t wait to see the adventures that lie ahead. Though I may not always feel secure I know He is close and has every season of my life planned.
R O M A N S 8 : 2 8
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
N E B I A N D H E R D A U G H T E R A T O U R H O U S E
H O M E W O R K T I M E A T O U R H O U S E “H A L E A K U A”
I have now been Ulu Pono Kids Director for eight months, and I gotta say…moms I don’t know how you do it! Not because of the hard work, long hours, tears, snot and poop, hey I can live with that! But because I have fallen so madly in love with these kids, and when I see them succeeding I am so proud of them, and they aren’t even my biological kids!!! So moms, how do you do it? How does your heart not just swell up so big that it is going to burst? Because that is how I feel about 90% of the time!
That being said, I am so excited to share this story with you…
Feeding the Hungry is one of Surfing the Nations’ oldest outreach programs. It is based out of Kalihi a rough suburb of Honolulu. Every Thursday a hard-working crew from STN heads down and unloads three semi-truck loads of food, divides that food up as best the can and sets it up along two stretches of tables, the food in-between those tables. The the mayhem starts. Each week around 500-700 “aunties” and “uncles” come to this feeding program and wait hours to receive their food. They never know what food they will get that particular week but Surfing the Nations has built their trust over time and they are always faithful to show up.
The last time I had been to Feeding the Hungry was over a year ago, when I was an intern. It was kind of a dreaded outreach. It is a long day of hard work, and the spirit there was one of extreme entitlement, a common and heart-breaking problem amongst the poor. At that time they were in a bit of a transition of leadership and so things just seemed a little rocky.
I was blown away this past Thursday. As soon as we arrived there was a spirit of peace that seemed to penetrate every inch of that dingy parking lot under the freeway. I saw so many smiles and people waiting patiently for their food. Leadership seemed to have developed such a beautiful balance of laugher and seriousness that got the day moving swiftly and efficiently. To say I was impressed, is a sore understatement.
The reason I was at Feeding the Hungry that Thursday was that we had decided it would be a good experience to bring some of the older kids from the program. We wanted them to learn how to serve with joy, and experience a day of hard work. If the program itself blew me away, this kids blew me right off the planet! They were incredible.
First off they were so excited to be going. We had invited three of our oldest kids, Jolynn, Toby and Scotty to come work for the day. I don’t know if they knew exactly what was in store for them, but they were up and ready to go when I went by their house that morning, a very rare thing. They were excited to wear their orange FTH shirts and their eyes were like saucers peering out the car as we pulled in. As we got out of the car Jolynn held tight to my arm “I’m nervous” she whispered “there are so many people!” And she was right, over 700 people were there for food that day. Aquila, a former FTH leader brought the kids around introducing them to aunties and uncles that he knew from his FTH days and teaching the kids simple phrases in Chinese and Filipino. Then we jumped in the assembly line. Each kids was assigned to a different food item, zucchinis or trail mix, frozen food or cheese. The selection at FTH is always quite random. As the people began filtering in the kids handed them their food shyly at first, then more and more boldly. “Only one box, auntie” I could soon hear the kids saying. For three hours they stood in that line handing out food to everyone who came through. They tore open boxes, unpiled the food, handed it out and tore open a new box. They worked hard and with a ton of joy!
On the way home all three of them crashed out hard. They didn’t even wake as I pulled into Costco to buy them a pizza. When we got back home we had pizza and a movie at my house and I hardly had the words to express to them my pride in them! “You guys were so awesome today!” I found myself saying over and over again, that is before I passed out on the floor to the sound of the Little Mermaid!
WOW! It has been a crazy summer!!
Back in January I returned to Surfing the Nations after spending the Holidays in Indiana and I jumper right into grant writing. I realized there was a lack when it came to the summer program so I wrote an additional grant so that our kids could continue to learn and grow all summer long! In June I attended a lunch-in at Friends of Hawaii Charities where I learned that we had received part of the summer grant we had asked for! I was over-joyed! But I also knew that this began a rigorous schedule of fun….
We began to take the kids all over the island to places they may never have been able to come! We visited the Zoo and the aquarium, we went snorkeling and hiking and even visited a museum. I now know why so often in the car my parents said “Katie, we are right here…” when I was a child. Times my loud voice by 15 rowdy kids stuck in Honolulu traffic for over an hour and oh boy…sorry mom and dad, I know understand all the deafening pain I caused you!
Nonetheless we had a blast every where we went. One of my favorite places was the Honolulu Zoo, tucked right in behind Diamond Head! We broke into two teams, boys and girls and went off on our adventure. I was with the boys team with my co-leader Aquila David. The boys were fascinated by EVERYTHING! It blew me away how many times they didn’t even know the name of the animal they were looking at. One of my favorite moments was eleven year old I-One (pronounced Ee-juan) was fascinated by an ostrich. He was chuckling with delight at it’s long legs and bushy round body, but I kept trying to shift his focus to what was around the corner, the giraffes. “I-One, look, look!” I kept saying to him but it was going to take a lot of convincing for him to take his eyes off of the ostrich. Finally he looked in the direction of my pointing and his jaw dropped in a cartooonish manor. “What is that?!” He exclaimed! “It is HUGE! I have never seen anything like it!” It gave me so much joy to see him so flabbergasted at the giraffe, not even knowing the creature’s name.
It was fun to see specific personality traits come out of the kids. Carlson, our troublesome 14 year old, couldn’t get enough of the museum. When we announced all that we would be doing over the summer he loudly stated “I don’t care about the zoo or the water park, all I care about is the museum!” I was slightly mystified at this response, even asking him if he was being sarcastic! He wasn’t! And we had a truly fabulous time at the Bishop Museum!
Now summer is over and I am feeling a little like a mom who just lost all her kids! Knowing I can’t go over to their house until after 2 because they won’t be home (hopefully) bums me out so much! It is incredible how such a group of munchkins can capture your heart! I can’t wait for this upcoming school year program!!!!
To admit that this week has been tough, would be an understatement. My social media pages, primarily Facebook and Instagram have been an explosion of black gowns and caps. I cannot express how overjoyed and proud I am of and for my peers who graduated this weekend. But seeing the success of it all, the postings about new jobs in big cities with fun new apartments made me question for the first time since leaving Indiana University, if I had made the right decision in doing so…
I know in my heart that that is a ridiculous question for me to even entertain. I had no direction in college. I have always known I had a heart for missions and for the people who are suffering in this World, even when I was not walking with the Lord. I remember on so many occasions asking my trainer Katy, “why do I even need this education?! I just want to be in Africa helping the orphan babies!” and not much has really changed, that is still the desire of my heart. But that is not why I left college. I was an athlete-student, which is backwards. You are supposed to be in college to be a student and few will get the privilege to be an athlete at the same time. All I wanted to do was row, and after four major changes I settled on the one that seemed most connected to my rowing and that was kineseology. Had I carried on with that major until today, until this graduation would I be very fulfilled? Would I have any more direction in my life than I did two years ago? Probably not.
Whilst I didn’t wear a gown this weekend and I didn’t get to throw my cap and receive my diploma I have to remember that that does not mean my education isn’t something worth celebrating. My education didn’t end the day I boarded a plane to Hawaii, it simply shifted. Out of the classroom and often with no professor, I began to learn in a whole new hands on way. So while I may not be as hirable as some of my brilliant friends. I have received such a beautiful education here at Surfing the Nations. And to that I throw my cap.