Monday, April 25, 2016


I was honored to officiate the wedding of one of our dear friends and longtime ministry volunteers - Dana Gibbs - to her new husband Barry. The wedding was beautiful and took place outside in the Orlando area. We are so happy for Dana & Barry and wish them the very best on their new adventure together!

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

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!  

Sign up today to join GTD on one of our GOD AWESOME adventures to see more of this beautiful world!  

Hike the Grand Canyon or the Appalachian Trail, explore the Mighty 5 National Parks of Utah, hike the Narrows and Walters Wiggles, paddle the Colorado River, walk through the incredible Slot Canyons, let you eyes soak in the majesty of Havasu and Moody Falls or see one of the most photographed destinations in Arizona called Horseshoe Bend.  

Explore our website to find more details about our trips! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Calvary Pictures Uploaded

We've uploaded all the pictures from our last 2 events onto GTD's online photo album. Hope you enjoy re-living the moments!!

Elevate Excursion (Calvary Baptist of Clearwater): CLICK HERE

Men's Advance Weekend (Calvary Baptist of Clearwater): CLICK HERE


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Thanks For Volunteering!!!

Special thanks to a great cast of volunteers and staff (including 2 guys not pictured here - Richard Dunn & Alan Tripp) that worked incredibly hard this past weekend to make our Men's Advance Weekend so special! God is cultivating a great group of newer volunteers mixed in with some seasoned veterans and we are thrilled to be partnered with such quality people.

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


We had a colossal God-awesome Men's Advance Campout this past weekend with 35 exceptional men from Calvary Baptist Church of Clearwater!

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

Good Morning Calvary Baptist Men

The guys from the  "Men's Advance" weekend retreat with Calvary Baptist Church of Clearwater started their day off with blueberry pancakes (fresh picked-onsite blueberries) and devotions from Romans 13.  What a blessing to see these men gathered together in Christ! 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Calvary's Annual Men's Retreat Starts Today!

Kicking off our annual Men's Retreat with Calvary Baptist Church of Clearwater this morning!! Looking forward to all that God is going to do!


Thursday, April 14, 2016


I spy a GTD t-shirt in Sam's Club and I'm not the one wearing it!!! Way to represent the ministry Elissa! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


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 Takes A Team!

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


We put together a mini adventure race during our weekend retreat with the Elevate Youth Group. One of our checkpoints was a slackline across the river... fun times!


Monday, April 4, 2016

Elevate Youth Group Rocked It!

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

Our Next Retreat Starts Today

Our setup crew has arrived to set up camp for our next youth retreat with Calvary Baptist Church of Clearwater!  

We are super excited for this event and can't wait to meet everybody! 

Thanks David Vandergraff for taking time out of your schedule to volunteer this weekend!  

GTD's Base Camp is Heating Up!

Introducing The GTD Hot Cleanse 4000XL Portable Shower System! (just made that name up!)

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 =)

Calvary Baptist Youth Retreat Starts Today!!

We are kicking off a weekend youth camping retreat with this guy, his wife, and their fantastic youth group from Calvary Baptist Church of Clearwater!!

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!