Sunday, August 26, 2012

Roman Rush Week

Before I arrived to NDSU all of the FOCUS outreach reservations with the Memorial Union were labeled under "Roman Rush Week," and I still think it's a pretty silly yet clever name. Lucas and I put the kibosh on that last semester, yet I kept expecting to see things reserved as Roman Rush Week for our outreach events this past week. Either way, whatever you call it, "FOCUS Fall Outreach," "Roman Rush Week," or simply "Week 1 of the semester"--it's done and over with.

Deep breath.

So this past week was really amazing! (Okay Kelsey, a little more specific please...) One of the main ways we begin our "push" into the NDSU campus is with simple yellow surveys that ask for basic information as well as if you're interested in a bible study, foreign mission trip, or conference in Orlando (which we just so happen to have this year!) and if you fill that out you get a freeze pop. Man, people go nuts over those things! The best moments at the booth are when people actually come over to you to get a freezie and happily fill out the survey while we get it for them! Even better yet is a conversation that goes like this:

FM (FOCUS Missionary): "Hey, want a freezie?! It's over 90 degrees out!"
RP (Random Passerby): "No, thanks though."
Spelling NDSU with our bodies for a photo scavenger hunt.
FM: "How about filling out a quick survey in the sweltering heat?" (to which you expect obvious rejection)
RP: "I suppose I could do that."

Are you kidding me?! 

I just don't understand how college students work these days. It's ironic because I'm really not all that far removed from the college scene. In fact, I haven't really left it for the last five, going on six years. Ha, that's actually a little bit funny now that I'm sitting down thinking about it. Over this past week one thing was made tremendously clear to me: people are thirsting for Christ and our world dehydrates them. The eagerness in students to desire being in a small group bible study, to get "one of those cool bisonCatholic tees" that they see everyone wearing, serve people on a missions trip, or even just take one of the goodie bags we give out and maybe put it on their shelf until the end of the year should be proof enough that students are not being entirely fed with their extracurricular activities, school, sports, etc. They crave deep conversations and meaningful relationships.

In fact, just last night Cari and I went out to dinner with a young woman and we both left Rhombus Guys completely inspired. For the sake of the story and confidentiality purposes, we will call this young woman Lucy. Lucy grew up in a Catholic home, went to mass on Sundays and even attended Catholic Church camps during the summers growing up, of which she has incredibly fond memories! She told us a little bit about her current groups and cliques of friends, and how unfulfilled she feels in the very surface-level relationships. She desires to spend time in fellowship with other young women, despite her 20-hour credit load, 2 internships and a job, and she can't wait to make time to attend a retreat this semester and start getting more involved at the Newman Center. The part I like the most is that nobody told her that her relationships were surface level and hardly going further than skin-deep. On her own and without the help of any spiritual community she has come to realize in her heart of hearts that she desires intimacy with close friends and to share her very heart with them.

What an incredible young woman! Praise God for her openness to the Lord's workings in her heart. On the other hand, it saddens me to then think of all the other men and women in Fargo alone, who are in the same boat as her but have no one to turn to! Lucy happens to be a friend of a friend of mine who sort of "set us up." But women don't have to meet up with a FOCUS missionary to learn what those deep, personable relationships are like. There are so many amazing men and women out there who are just itching to share Christ with another person. And until that other person approaches us, how will we ever know who has the deepest longing and desire? Sure, we had over 700 students fill out surveys marking their interests, but now the time has arrived where we cannot just sit back, call a few people and hope for a few people to show up to our bible studies. No, students desire the heart of Christ which is found in a deep, meaningful relationship, and we have been given the pearl of greatest price (Matthew 13:46). Shame on us if we keep it to ourselves! One conversation, one smile, one invitation can make a world of difference to just one person. One changed life transforms many lives through a simple witness. See how that works? Let's just say, I love my line of work.

"For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" 
1 Corinthians 9:16

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vacation over, School starting!

For those of you just dying to hear about the rest of my vacation--mainly mom and dad, seeing as they were the first people eager to read the posts the next morning, here's a brief summary of the last couple of days. I did love the fact that they continued reading about the things we were doing together as we were doing them. They are wonderful parents and I had such a great time spending the week with them. I had a realization just the other day about it, actually. In the beginning of the summer I was able to spend a week, completely uninterrupted with Jesus during the silent retreat after NST. Last week I was able to spend a week, uninterrupted, with mom and dad! I couldn't ask for two better gifts. I absolutely crave quality time so let's just say that the entire week my "love tank" was constantly filling up and up and up (for those who are familiar with Dr. Chapman's Five Love Languages, if you aren't I highly suggest it). I came back to Fargo on a pretty quiet and uneventful bus from Sioux Falls and have truly hit the ground running since the night I arrived.

To finish filling you in on mom, dad and I's most exciting adventures let me tell you about just a few highlights of the last couple, jam-packed days:
Ready for the descent at Harney Peak
  • The Mammoth Site. When dad was talking about this I kind of thought, "Yeah, sure we can do that and I can act interested, but it will probably be super lame. It's okay though, I'm doing something daddy likes :)." It turned out to be really fascinating! There is a huge prehistoric sinkhole turned mammoth grave where paleontologists have been uncovering tons and tons of mammoth, along with short-faced bear and ancient llama bones since 1974. There are over 60 mammoths identified already and if they continue digging they could find literally hundreds more. This was definitely worth finding our way to Hot Springs to see!
  • Mt. Rushmore at Night. Going to Mt. Rushmore is something I've wanted to do ever since the third grade. We rolled in right around 8:00 pm and stuck around because we heard rumors that at 9 pm every night of the week there is a video presentation about the four presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln T. Roosevelt) and a ceremony with any veterans in the audience. All three of us loved it, and the slow, dramatic lighting of the mountain side was pretty neat as well. As a bonus, we met a group of three guys the same age as mom and dad from Illinois, and one of them asked me about FOCUS and what I do. He gave me some great encouragement! He said to me, "Don't let anyone tell you that what you're doing isn't important. Stay in this as long as you possibly can because after you leave it's hard to come back." Noted.
  • Climbing to Harney Peak. Harney Peak is the tallest point in all of South Dakota! It stretches 7,244 feet (might not be very high for those mountain-range folks, but for us, it's pretty high!) and is an amazing look-out point to see the rolling Black Hills and giant rock formations scattered throughout. Mmm! I loved it a lot. In fact, it reminded me quite a bit of Devil's Lake State Park, but a lot higher and a lot more difficult/longer of a hike. For non-hikers mom and dad did great, and I was still just excited to spend all the quality time with them. I love hiking and definitely don't do it enough so it was a great day. Unfortunately for dad and all his attempts to stir up some wildlife we never saw a bear, mountain lion or cougar (oh shoot!), but man he was trying as hard as he might!
  • So. Jealous.
  • Bear Country U.S.A! Now THIS was where we saw the wildlife! It sounds corny, but for those of you who have been there you definitely know what I'm talking about. I've always wanted to get close to a bear but never actually be close to a bear, if you know what I mean. (I have similar feelings about tornadoes, earthquakes...oh wait...hurricanes and tsunamis.) There really were a lot of bears, and of many ages and types! Along with them, yet in separate areas of the park roamed some elk, mountain lions, rocky mountain goats, arctic foxes, badgers, a lynx, and more bears. The baby bears were so cute and some people even got to go in their pen to feed and play with them! Annette and I were pretty jealous. Have you ever wondered what would happen if your teddy bear came to life? That happened in front of my eyes. Marshmallow was no longer that cute fluffy bear with the red ribbon around his neck, he was climbing trees and playing with the other bear cubs, oh it was so cute. Anyway, I really loved this and would definitely go again.
  • Because we can. In Deadwood, SD.
  • Sturgis Bike Rally. We actually did drive through Sturgis to see what all the hullabaloo was about after spending the morning in Deadwood on our last day in SD. Let's just say that I was very overwhelmed by all the people (there was an estimated 600,000 total!) but have never wanted to ride a motorcycle more than I did in that week. I most likely will never go back but it was pretty neat to see the whole other world of Harley Davidson and people who travel from all over the country to get together and ride their bikes in backwoods SD. Seems silly to me, but I suppose if that's what floats your boat...
And that's a pretty good summary of my favorite things from the last couple of days of the Kaufman family minus Kevin vacation! We missed him a lot but I'm so thankful that they took the time to spend with me.

As I said, I'm now back and running at NDSU. We had the evangelization workshop for the student missionaries on Friday, freshman move-in today and tomorrow we will be cooking pancakes for after the morning mass and grilling out after the 5 pm! And that's only the first day of the week! I can't wait to tell you all more the next time I have a few minutes to sit down and dump my thoughts on you.

Please pray for the missionaries and all the students, especially those who we hope to reach!! After moving in only a handful of them today I can see how thirsty they are for an amazing college experience, and I pray that we can help show them one way to kick it up a notch--with Jesus Christ.
Amazing chalk art Mary and Zoe did outside the Union!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Family Vacation: Days 3 and 4

He packs coolers and reads maps. I hope he's enjoying himself...
I think that a nice theme for the two of these days should be something along the lines of "wrong direction." I know of a hit band that claims to know One Direction, but we just could not seem to find it in our few brief endeavors, whether by foot or bike. After arriving in Sioux Falls yesterday afternoon we found a bike rental shop and rented some Specialized bikes for a few hours and rode the paths through town and through the middle of nowhere. We had hoped to ride to the falls, which would have been about a 10-mile loop, but we ended up doing about 12 in the opposite direction. A little bit of construction threw us off and we ended up enjoying a nice long bike ride anyways, and then driving to the rushing falls to see what they're really all about. And that was all thanks to a nice lady JR stopped along the way who very kindly advised us to take our bikes back and drive, due to the high-nineties heat and our lack of water. That was the best advice she could've given us and I'm so glad we listened! We ended up making our way through town and to Falls Park hoping to see lots of rushing water, yet having no idea what to expect. We should've figured by the way all of the farmland looks around here that Wisconsin isn't the only state that's experienced a drought this summer, but alas, South Dakota has it perhaps even a little worse than us and the river barely made it over the rocks. It was still cool to see where Sioux Falls gets its namesake though.

THE Sioux Falls. Try not to squint looking for them.
Today we ended up hiking just a little further than we had originally intended to, but it did provide a wonderful opportunity to be in the park about two hours longer and 1) watch the sunset and 2) see over 50 bison grazing in the prairies. The extra two hours of hiking certainly weren't what dad bargained for, and it's mainly because we didn't have a map to look at. Whoopsie. Luckily we got to experience the entire Castle Trail, which is the longest in the park, and had a car with ice cold water and Gatorade in the cooler waiting for us. If only the Israelites would have had that same assurance a few thousand years ago...
A storm not far in the distance. So glad to be where we were!
We made it all the way from Sioux Falls to Rapid City,  just pulling into the Country Inn & Suites hotel around 10:00 pm, surrounded by motorcycles and the riders. The big Sturgis bike rally conveniently started yesterday and goes through this week, the week we happen to be random travelers in the area. I'm pretty excited about it and seeing all of the bikes, actually. Ever since seeing the movie Wild Hogs I've kind of had a secret desire to see a huge line of bikes and play motorcycle dominoes. Not that I ever would on purpose, but it's not the type of accident I would put past me... and if it were ever to happen I suspect this week would be the time. I saw the first long line of bikes parked outside the place we had lunch at today inside the Badlands National Park, and had my first encounter with a biker when one of them so kindly opened the door for mom and I as we were walking into the hotel tonight with our luggage. I'm a fan.
Dad and I on the baddest of lands.
I should give a brief mention of two of the places we stopped, both of which came highly recommended by friends and billboards along I-90. First, we obviously had to make a stop at the world famous Corn Palace. I had never heard anything about what's inside of it, so that was definitely a question I needed answered. The outside is exotic and I think they change the design every year or every couple of years, pretty sweet! I'll be honest and admit I was hoping for something a little more rugged when we walked inside, but instead there were concession stands with popcorn (which we obviously bought) and a gymnasium-turned-gift shop with ample crowd seating. It wasn't what I expected, per se, but I don't know why there would be livestock running around for lots of tourists to see, which was what I was hoping for.
Self explanatory.

Second, Wall Drug, while perhaps a wonderful stop for some travelers, is not so much my cup of tea. We didn't stop and look around, but also had no desire to do so. We drove down main street looking for a place to quick grab some chow before driving through the park again and scouting out some wildlife and were just a bit unimpressed. We more than likely will not go back on our way back through on Friday, but I suppose one never knows. Plus, as Annette constantly reminds us, "Stop planning! We're on vacation!" Ha, I love it. And I love being able to do this, and the fact that even after "sleeping in" I'll be awake by 7:30 at the latest. I love vacationing with the 'rents. It's wonderful--and I mean that!

Trying to get the sunset in the back. Instead, we got people taking pictures of it.
Lastly, I'd like to elaborate on a few highlights of Badlands National Park today. We got out and went for an afternoon hike and the setting was absolutely glorious. Due to a storm in the distance the skies were just a little overcast when we set out, so the hike wasn't blazing hot. The landscape was totally different from anything we'd see back home and I could tell dad thought it was pretty neat. We ended up going about 5-6 miles out of the way, but it was totally worth it. We saw a snake, some amazing rock formations (which might not sound all that neat but trust me, if you've seen them you know they are!) and made it back to the car without anyone getting hurt. Coming back through the park at night and seeing bighorn sheep, prairie dogs (which for some reason really excite both dad and I, I'm not quite sure why...), antelope, mule deer and (drum roll please....) all those bison! At first I thought dad was kind of a nerd for bringing the binoculars but after being able to see those buggers close up while still being far away I'm sure glad he did! Also, as I mentioned, the sunset was SO beautiful! Seeing the way the colors reflected off the rocks one could really see the sedimentation and different lines in the formations was just amazing. I remember being completely fascinated by Geology when I took a course in college and now I can start to see why geologists love their job so much!

And now it's way past my bedtime, but I'm in Mountain time now so we gained an hour. Whoopie!

"The earth stands in awe at the sight of your wonders. The lands of sunrise and sunset you fill with your joy." -Psalm 65

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Family Vacation: Day 2

Luckily today was much more happenin' than yesterday. I most pleasantly awoke to the sounds of mom and dad talking.
Dad: What should we do about Kels, she's still asleep?
Mom: Wake her up!

....then I proceeded to hear mom come out and start talking to me while not making out much of what she said, minus the fact that she thought I was ridiculous for using a beach towel as a blanket. Hey, when you are short on actual blankets and have a two-person towel that's actually clean, you won't mind using it so much. In fact, I rather enjoyed it.

St's Anne and Joachim. Sanctuary. Yes, this is in Fargo, ND.
We were up and at 'em in no time and hit up Mass in south Fargo at one of my all-time fave churches, stopped by Caribou for some coffee (and obviously to show mom and dad one of my favorite hot-spots in the area) and then thought we'd pick up some garbage bags from Wal-Mart. After being perplexed by the completely empty parking lot, we proceeded to walk right past a sign telling us they didn't open until noon. Sure did feel silly after that one. (But not until we walked over to the door to the Market side and saw the sign over there...noticing we walked by the same one on the other side...)
Empty Wal-Mart parking lot, say WHAT!

Not sure how we missed this bad boy...
We didn't let a little law-abiding ruin our morning, no no! Instead we came back and worked hard as we Germans tend to do. Simply sifting through everything that I had packed so neatly (cue: eye roll) and organized so carefully (cue: thorn in my side) before leaving Fargo in a rush merely two months ago took quite a bit of time! Apparently my organization skills need some w-o-r-k.
Dad checking for leaks in the air mattress... Break time.
Tonight we had dinner at the Breen family household. Josie, as you know is one of my disciples and close friends at NDSU, and her family has basically adopted me into their own here in Fargo. They have seven children of their own and certainly do not hesitate to welcome shy, lost FOCUS missionaries, not unlike myself (cue: apology, that's not entirely true), into their loving arms. Not only did they make us a delicious meal (grilled pizza + juicy corn on the cob + brownies and ice cream = very happy Kaufman's), but the hospitality was just delightful. Sitting around the table with Pat, Brenda and five of the seven kids it felt like we had known the family for years and were getting together again to catch up. Swapping stories about the kids, the Church, our lives, and who knows what else, I definitely could get used to that. I sure do hope it's not the last time we have that opportunity!
Reunited and SO great! Josie, Miriam and Madeline Breen.

Tomorrow Annette, JR and myself are leaving for Sioux Falls, SD and the adventure will continue, and hopefully when we arrive there we don't have to do as much unpacking, cleaning and organizing. Not that those things aren't absolutely wonderful and necessary, but let's be real, we're on vacation.
This house, just two blocks from my old apt was featured on House Hunters!
Catch you on the flipside!

Family Vacation: Day 1

Now I'm not sure that I'll actually be updating you on the enthralling adventures that mom, dad and I undertake as we continue to travel, but it is quite comical the way we vacation. A seven-hour car ride paused with a stop for lunch at one of our favorites and the nation's finest: Chipotle. We arrived in Fargo and met up with Marissa for dinner at Doolittle's--the area's best! We came home to my new apartment and spent the next hour and a half hauling all of my stuff upstairs from the basement which Lee had so nicely packed in. I should've taken a picture! Anyway, here's a few photos from day one:
Mom and I, proudly snapping a picture with Chipotle in the background.

The "before" Bedroom 1.
Half of our living room and the kitchen in the back.
My current bedroom/living room.
Mom and dad's current bedroom, will be mine and Mikayla's.
After 8:30 mass at St's. Anne and Joachim (and some coffee) we'll have everything put away and in it's proper place! I'm hoping to take 'em for a walk later and show them the better part of Fargo this afternoon, followed by dinner at the Breen's tonight! Basically, it's a good day, and it's good to be home...kind of. And if you're wondering how cold it is way up der, when we got out of the cars we were actually cold and looked at the thermometer: 69 degrees, baby. Welcome to North Dakota.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

On the Road Again...

That seems to sum up the better portion of my current status. Thursday night around 11:30 pm I rolled in with Ben and Molly from Omaha and this morning mom, dad and I are taking off for wonderful Fargo. Man, what a summer this has been! I consider it all a blessing that I've been able to see so many friends in so many different places, and the Taur (my car, the candy apple red 2000 Ford Taurus we have all come to know and love) is racking up the miles pretty quickly. Last time I checked she was just on the brink of 204,000. I'm praying for her to get to 250 or 300. Most of them are highway miles so it is actually not unthinkable.

Irma and I in Milwaukee in 2010
At the top of St. Peter's after a long climb up! In 2009.
Going to Nebraska this past week was absolutely necessary for my soul. I spent the first few days in Columbus, a town of about 18,000 an hour and a half west of Omaha, with a dear friend, Irma. It's still a mystery to both of us why and how we actually became friends, but I know that both of us thank God for having put the other in our lives and we have spent time together, doing something seemingly crazy at least once or twice a year for the past few years now. If you're wondering how I actually know Irma, she went to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul with my good friends, Molly and Sara, and whenever I'd go visit them I ended up seeing Irma and we totally hit it off and became good friends. It's really quite funny, too, because since then our friendship has consisted of phone calls and trips to see each other. Unlike many relationships that form because of physical location and circumstance, our relationship started completely by traveling (often many hours) to see the other person. We've done some pretty fun things together, too! We road-tripped out to Cali for the Rose Bowl in 2011, making an extremely short stop in Vegas on the way...something I never thought I'd actually do but Irma and Gladys, her mom, can make just about anything happen. I've flown to Rome to visit her, Molly and Sara before leaving for Chile and when I got there Irma and I spent the first few days greeting the Italian countryside in Florence, Venice, and Rome. She's come to Wisconsin and we've gone to the Lacrosse Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Milwaukee and she's even toured beautiful Sauk City. I visited her hometown of Schuyler, Nebraska and I think I've officially met all of the more important people in her life who aided to her conversion, and she can usually just see right through me. We make a pretty dynamic duo, and I thank God for her friendship.

Molly and I in 2006. Cheering on SP Volleyball.
On the trip this past week we visited her brother and his three adorable girls, Alicia, Jessica and Diana and spent time entertaining them while her brother was at work. We then scooted off to Omaha to visit Molly and Ben Dellaria, which was great. We played lots of Settlers of Catan (love), Phase 10 (pretty fun) and watched the Olympics. It is always so good to see them, especially Molly who can also see right through me seeing as we've known each other since the days of face painting, Oshkosh B'Gosh and pre-school. It is such a blessing to see her come alive in her marriage to Ben, and to see how well they are doing in Omaha, far from all of their family and the friends they have known for the entirety of their lives. They are just so wonderful and I'm so blessed to call them friends!

Today mom, dad and I have packed up the vehicles and we're heading north. We'll be making a two-day stop in Fargo to move into my apartment, have dinner with the Breen's and make a stop at St's Anne and Joachim for Sunday mass. Then we'll be packing up the Murano and going to South Dakota for the week before I get back on a bus in Sioux Falls and head back to Fargo to kick off FOCUS year two!

Basically, my life is a blessing and it's so clear that God has a much better plan for me and my life than I could dream up myself. Thanks for being a part of it! And please say a prayer for our safe drive out West!