Tuesday, May 3, 2016
This past Saturday GTD had the privilege of running 3 free canoeing trips for 50 motivated paddlers at Weedon Island Preserve's beautiful kayaking trail in St Petersburg, FL. It was a mangrove canopy of awesomeness!
We had a marvelous time enjoying God's liquid playground! In addition to paddling we had squishee ball wars, canoe races, a water-top devotional, plenty of quality time together, lunch, and a few capsized canoes mixed in for good measure.
It's always an honor to have people take time out of their busy schedules to embark on an adventure with us. And we are very thankful for our staff and volunteers (Laurie Finger, Erin Powell, Jesse Altamarino) who helped make this day achievable. It takes a lot of hard work to provide adventure outings and we are blessed to have a great team of capable & talented people.
Praising God for good times!
Pictures of the event coming very very soon =)
Monday, April 25, 2016
Laurie & I then rushed back to Largo to celebrate the 50th Wedding Anniversary of 2 of the most extraordinary people on the planet - Karen & Dick LaBrant. With 200 people in attendance, it was a testament of what God intended marriage to look like. Dick & Karen have mentored, encouraged, and imparted so much wisdom to thousands & thousands of people & young couples through the years. We absolutely cherish them and their friendship, and are honored to have them on our ministry's board of directors.
Over the weekend Laurie & I also had a fantastic time in Lake Mary, FL spending quality time with another dear friend and partner in ministry - Jennifer Hedger (Daniel Hedger was out of town. We missed you Dan!). It's always great getting caught up with close friends. We had a wonderful time hanging out.
In-between the rehearsal, the wedding, the 50th wedding anniversary, and our hurried travels we also got to see so many friends we haven't seen in years as well as friends we do get to see more frequently. There are many ways in which God can bless a person's life, but one of the greatest of these is through healthy close friendships. I've been so blessed to have met so many people with deep and Godly character through many years of involvement in my local churches. I'm very thankful!
We also had just enough time this weekend to squeeze in a young adult church service and leadership meeting. And I got to do all of this with my best friend by my side - Laurie Finger. It was a good weekend! It was a blessed weekend. Thank You JESUS! =)
Friday, April 22, 2016
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Elevate Excursion (Calvary Baptist of Clearwater): CLICK HERE
Men's Advance Weekend (Calvary Baptist of Clearwater): CLICK HERE
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The amazing thing about serving God is that you can pour every ounce of energy you have into ministry and somehow (supernaturally) walk away more refreshed, energized, and blessed than when you arrived. It's how God works! These men have no idea exactly how much they blessed mine & Laurie 's lives, 35 men's lives, and the lives that each one of us touches after we depart from an inspiring ministry event like this.
God could supernaturally use thousands of different resources in order to accomplish His ministry, but I learned a long time ago that His primary choice of methods is to utilize people. God's method is man. He uses man to reach man. It's how He includes us in on a worldwide mission with eternal ramifications.
Our profound thanks to these guys for being willing and available vessels and allowing Christ to work through them to be a blessing to others. We are so glad you are on our team! God bless you!!
Monday, April 18, 2016
The event was held in Odessa, FL on a 170 acre private ranch adjoining a beautiful lake and surrounded by thousands of blueberry bushes and plenty of majestic oak trees.
Activities included boating, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, volleyball, shooting at the gun range, Hole Shot, relaxing on hammocks, blueberry picking, watching an outdoor movie, hanging out around the campfire, Biblical lessons and challenges, morning devotions, and a whole lot of shoulder-to-shoulder guy time relationship building. It was the perfect weekend!
Most of the men arrived and didn't know anyone. That's one of the great things about events like this. In the course of 30 hours people can go from complete strangers to good friends (and in many cases we see the birthing of new best friends). The reality is that Christ-centered camping trips are relationship accelerators. There are so many elements within a camping trip that cause teamwork, overcoming, and collaboration. Then when you mix in a Biblical approach with an optimistic perspective, a joyful tone, and mutual encouragement you have a setting that promotes rapid relational growth. We estimate that one weekend event like this is the equivalent of an entire year of casual interaction at church. That's why camps and retreats are (or should be) big priorities to churches... so much growth, development, and salvations happen when we disconnect from the strangle hold of the many distractions found in our day-to-day life.
I want to thank my dear friend Pastor Ron Cooney for all the time, effort, planning, and promoting he did to make this event happen, and especially for the opportunity he gave our ministry to be able to host this event (our 4th time over the past 5 years!). It was a blessing to everyone involved! We are already talking about next year's event!
I want to thank our Staff & Volunteers for the tremendous job they did to turn Calvary's hopes and plans into reality. I can't accurately express how much hard work goes into setting-up camp, breaking-down camp, and everything in-between. They did an amazing job! (I will make a separate post to honor all of their efforts.)
And, as a non-profit organization, I want to thank all of our donors, Monthly Partners, and supporters for their faithful and consistent investment into this ministry. I learned a long time ago that many times God's method is man. He uses man to reach man. He works through willing vessels to make large impacts. Each person's donation to this ministry makes a difference in countless lives and we are forever grateful for your enablement and support that helps make what we do possible. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Friday, April 15, 2016
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
YOU ASKED FOR IT. WE LISTENED!
Introducing GTD's Havasu Falls Backpacking Trip 2016!!
They are difficult to obtain, but GTD has locked in a reservation for 15 backpackers to one of the most astonishing destinations in the world - Havasupai Falls down inside of the Grand Canyon.
Ever since we started including an overnight stay at Havasu Falls on our South Rim Grand Canyon Trip participants have been asking for more time at this breathtaking once-in-a-lifetime destination.
We heard your request and we are excited to announce that GTD will be outfitting an extended backpacking trip for 4 days & 3 nights to Havasu Falls Nov 18-23, 2016 (includes 2 travel days).
We love these dates because it's a great time to visit the Grand Canyon and it's just before Thanksgiving which has become vacation time for many people. (Plus it will give you some great stories to share with your family on Thanksgiving day!)
The website link with all the details is in the process of being built. We hope to have it completed in the next 2 weeks, but we wanted to let you know so that you can start planning now.
Most outfitters offer this trip for $1100 - $4000 per person. GTD strives to give you more for less. We are working hard to get this trip under $900 per person.
We hope you can join us on this God-awesome adventure! Stay tuned... More details to come! =)
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Ministry (and life) is a Team Sport! It can't be accomplished or fully enjoyed without others.
One of the best ways to discover your gifts and your talents and your indispensable value is to become an active part of a healthy team.
That's when God begins to peel back any superficial layers that try to cover up who you were made to be and what you were designed to do.
Get involved in your church and local ministries. Let God work through your willingness and availability to make a difference in other people's lives.
Too many people live their lives as spectators. That only builds a lifetime of regrets. Instead, get involved, and build a lifetime of satisfaction, cherished memories, close friendships, and lasting impact. Nothing good results from holding back.
(A special thanks to our team of volunteers & staff pictured here that worked tirelessly on our most recent youth retreat. Camp is hard work and they poured their hearts into the set-up, break-down, and everything in-between so that it was a blessing to our participants. Thank you so much Team GTD for a job well done!)
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Monday, April 4, 2016
We had a marvelous camping retreat with the remarkable Elevate Youth Group of Calvary Baptist Church of Clearwater! Our remote base camp was beautifully positioned on the banks of Withlacoochee River surrounded by enormous oak trees, scenic palm trees, and deliciously scattered with orange trees. Although we got hit with torrential thunderstorms on Saturday it didn't dampen the adventurous spirits of this highly motivated fun group of high schoolers. They were so much fun and were ready for all of our outdoor activities, even in the rain! And these students were incredibly helpful and hard working. From the moment they got off the bus they were ready to take on the physical challenge of setting up camp. I can't tell you how many times students initiated walking up to our staff and asking if they could help out in any way. This tremendous group of young people blew us away with their love for God, positive attitudes, fun-loving spirits, and servant heartedness! We didn't see a bunch students that had formed several cliques. They were more like a big functional family of brothers and sisters that genuinely cared about each other. We never heard one complaint or one put-down or one critical word. We were so encouraged by each and everyone of them. And we couldn't help but connect the dots. These students are a direct reflection of their leadership! Justin, Carie, and Dickie set a incredible tone of Christ-centered character and lively fun attitudes. Their leadership is making a great impact. This retreat was jam-packed from start to finish. We enjoyed daily time in God's Word, nightly campfire sermons, delicious camp meals (including pulled pork prepared by my Dad), smores, roasted marshmallows, canoeing, an adventure race, camp games, hot showers, an outdoor movie, and so much more! Camping is hard work. We pour a lot of effort into set-up, break-down, and everything in-between, but every drop of sweat is so worth it as we watch God do what God does at camp. It was such a great weekend! Thank you so much to our superb volunteers, our generous donors, and our tremendous staff that God uses to make this ministry work! We couldn't do it without you... and we wouldn't want to! All glory to God =)
Friday, April 1, 2016
We're looking forward to trying out our newly improved heated camp shower system this weekend!
We usually have to assemble everything when we get to camp, but we were able to build a pre-assembled version on a hand cart for easy mobility and quick set-up. This should save us 1-2 hours on our base camp set-up (depending on how many showers we provide).
The heater unit is an Eccotemp L5 tankless water heater that runs off of propane & 2 D batteries (for the igniter). It can connect directly to a hose or to a Flowjet water pump when a hose is not an option (we can pump water directly from a 55 gallon barrel with the Flowjet). When using the water pump we need electricity to power it which usually comes from our portable generator.
We have an enclosed shelter that envelopes the shower unit for personal privacy.
Thank you YouTube & Google for some critical ideas that helped shape this rough draft design.
I will let you know how it works after this weekend's camping retreat =)
I can't say enough great things about the youth pastor dynamic duo of Carie & Justin Facenda. They go above and beyond to pour their lives into their youth and challenge them to grow deeper in character and in closeness to Christ. They use every ounce of energy (and then some more!) each day to be positively involved in people's lives. They give, give, give, and when they are out of energy they give some more! This picture was taken a week ago after Justin had already spent the week pouring into his youth & family. He was physically exhausted. So what did he do when he dropped off some paperwork to us while we were moving items into a new storage unit??? He should have gone home and crawled into bed for a few days... instead he helped us pick up heavy items for the next hour and pack them into our vehicles. It's moments like these that I feel so blessed to know Christ and know so many wonderful people who not only "go the distance" with their faith, but actually go the extra mile to show the love of Christ to others.
So we are blessed to not only host a weekend retreat for an exciting youth group from an amazing church, but also to spend quality time with the leaders God is using to impact thousands of young people's lives in the Tampa Bay area!
It's go time! Keep us in your prayers... it's always an adventure!
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
In celebration of our 20 Year Anniversary, GTD is excited to invite you to our annual LIQUID Canoeing Day Trip for FREE!! And LUNCH is INCLUDED!!
LIQUID is scheduled for Saturday April 30, 2016 at Weedon Island in St Petersburg, FL. We will be providing 2 separate canoeing sessions with spots for 20-30 paddlers per session.
We will be providing a free lunch, a Christ-centered devotion, a squishee ball war, and a canoe race. It's always a fun & beautiful time!
To reserve your spot and to read more details click on this link.
Hope to see you there!!
Monday, March 28, 2016
We enjoyed a wonderful Easter by going to 2 church services. One with our awesome Pathway's Community Church family in Largo and the second with my incredible immediate family at the great Calvary Chapel Church in Pinellas Park. It was such a nice day!
We have so much to celebrate because of an empty tomb and a risen Savior. Thank You Jesus!!
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
If you are looking for a great Christ-centered adventure ministry for your youth (summer camps, etc) in the Tampa Bay area then check out their website... you'll LOVE it!!
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
It was a rare 10 day vacation in the spring time that included cruising on the "Oasis Of The Sea" - the largest cruise ship in the world! The Oasis can hold over 6000 passengers, has 21 swimming pools, 2 climbing walls, 2 surfing flowriders, an ice skating rink, a basketball court, a zipline, and so so so much more! It's 5 times larger than the Titanic, and I'm happy to say that this ship didn't come close to sinking! The cruise included stops in the Bahamas and Jamaica.
The entire ship was chartered by Beachbody (makers of P90X, Shakeology, etc). Laurie is a Beachbody Coach and earned points towards the cruise and purchased an extra ticket last year that I ended up benefiting from. It was a wonderful time and the batteries are recharged... praise God!
Yesterday was the first day back to work. We are looking forward to a God-awesome spring!
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Monday, March 7, 2016
Savoring a God-awesome IGNITE Retreat with nearly 60 outstanding kids, teenagers, parents, young adults, prime-aged adults, and even grandparents.
This multi-generational family-friendly camping trip was jam packed full of fun, laughter, great food, friendship building, worship, Christ-centered devotions, a pancake food fight, and all sorts of adventures. It ended up feeling more like the ultimate family reunion!
I want to profoundly thank our amazing staff, volunteers, and participants for helping make this such a special and memorable retreat.
A lot of hard work went into this weekend and I was blessed to have so many hard working and dedicated people share in the labor of camp set-up, break-down, and everything in-between.
Camping is primitive living and it is hard work, but it is fruitful work. The greatest part is that those who share in the sacrifice also share in the blessing!
Thank you so much to everyone who participated in IGNITE 2016!! We have many more GTD events planned for 2016 and we can't wait to see what God has in store =)
To see all 655 pictures from our IGNITE Retreat click here.
To God be the glory <><
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Monday, February 29, 2016
Happy LEAP Day from GTD!
Let today be a reminder that nothing great comes from holding back. Sometimes, to become all that God made you to be, you've simply got to take a LEAP of faith!
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Thursday, February 25, 2016
We are thrilled to announce that our IGNITE Camping Retreat scheduled for next weekend (March 4-6) has already set a new all-time GTD attendance registration record for any outdoor event we've ever hosted in 20 years of ministry!! This is a great way to kick off our next 20 years of ministry!
We've also made bunkhouse cabins available for this event as an optional add-on (extra $30 fee) for those who would prefer sleeping in a bunkhouse instead of a tent.
We only have a few spots remaining before we close the door on this event. Click on this link to read more details about IGNITE and to register... before it's too late!
Honored and excited to be hosting our 3rd annual Men's Retreat with MorningStar Church of Tampa, FL this weekend!!
We love Pastor Tony Byrd and his awesome crew. They're a bunch of fun-loving Godly guys that overflow with joyful and adventurous spirits =)
All the festivities kick off tomorrow night!!
Pray for great things to happen this weekend... God has a way of impacting lives when we unplug and break away from all the distractions, pressures, and societal pollutants.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Sometimes you have to make a bigger mess in order to clean up smaller messes! We've been putting in a lot of hours over the past 2 weeks renovating the GTD office. Personally I've been going from 7am till 3am for much of the time (which means I'm a little behind on facebook, voicemails, emails, messages, etc). We have more gear, equipment, and admin supplies as well as a build up of outdated or no-longer necessary items than we have space for. So we are tackling it all! Actually we started the process 1 year ago, but didn't finish before our busy travel season started. Now we are back to work on it... in a monomaniacal fashion! Trash - donate - storage - or reorganize ... then repeat cycle over-and-over again! Here's a few pictures of our messes. I look forward to sharing some pictures of the finished projects when their completed. We are starting to see the fruits of our labor. Special thanks to Laurie Finger, Erin Powell, and Erin Hegedus for all their hard work!! You should see these ladies doing construction... they have mad power tools skills (pictures coming soon). We can't wait to get back to work on rolling out more GTD events for 2016! We have so many God-awesome adventures in the works!!
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Click this link to check out our Grand Canyon Trip and more. We are adding events every week!
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Coming up for air! I've been putting in 12, 14, and 16 hour days entering receipts into our financial software totalling over $125, 000 in expenses during the last 7 months of ministry in 2015. It is an arduous task... very monotonous... and strangely enough I actually enjoy doing it. Being away on events for nearly 5 months last year results in a lot of piles of "to-do's" when I get back. I had the rough draft numbers entered in during my months away, but had to go back and enter everything in detail. I've been obsessed with completing this pile accurately and immediately, and I'm glad to say that I'm almost done. One of our biggest needs in 2016 is a volunteer office manager. That's near the top of our prayer list. We've got a lot planned for 2016, and we are still wrapping things up from 2015. My next pile is nearly 3000 emails... thankfully most of those don't need reply backs. An office manager would make a huge impact in this ministry as it would free me up to focus a lot more time on our main mission in GTD - impacting lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through outdoor adventures. I'm looking forward to this prayer being answered!! Back to work!