Ringtones for Charity!

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This Wednesday I am being “locked up”  to help raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I can avoid being locked up if I come up with $3,200 in bail money (aka donations to the MDA). To raise part of this money I tried to use eBay to auction ringtones created by Mark “Turpster” Turpin and Patrick Beja, but eBay has restrictions on auctioning digital goods, so they shut down my auctions before they were finished.

All is not lost!  In fact, this may be to your benefit.  Patrick, Turpster and I have come up with a plan.  First, make a donation of $20 or more at my Lock-Up website: www.joinmda.com/clermont2010/shawncoons. Then send me an email at shawncoons@joinmda.com with your first and last name in it so I can match it with your donation record.  Then you will receive, not one, not two, but six ringtones from Turpster and Patrick.

Patrick has created one fabulous ringtone, while Turpster (by his own admission) has gone for quantity over quality with five separate ringtones.  I don’t want to ruin the surprise hilarity by uploading the recordings here, and if I did then anyone could download them without donating!  So let me give you some descriptive highlights.

Turpster does his own version of a famous internet meme, as well as a celebrity impression, and the ringtone so awesome that you won’t want to answer your phone.  Patrick’s ringtone announces to the world just what kind of person many men are…

But wait, there’s more!

If you donate $40 or more at www.joinmda.com/clermont2010/shawncoons (and send an email with your first and last name to shawncoons@joinmda.com) then you can have Patrick or Turpster create a one of a kind, personal ringtone just for you!  You can give them your name or other info to work from, or just let their creativity run wild!

If you have already donated out of the goodness of your heart with no expectation of goods or services then thank you!  Please feel free to drop me an email and I’d be happy to include you and your donation in this ringtone extravaganza!

My bail is due Wednesday morning at 11:00 a.m., so you have 48 hours to take advantage of this.  Thank you for your support and big thanks to Patrick and Turpster for their efforts!

I’m Going to Jail…

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…to raise money to help fight Muscular Dystrophy!  I have been chosen to help in the 2010 Clermont MDA Lockup.

Sometime on June 30, I will be hauled away and locked up and I will need $3,200 bail in order to be released.  $3,200 may sound like a lot of money but I fully expect to have that and more.  My plans are to raise at least $5,000 in donations.

Why am I so confident?  Two reasons.

1.  I want to use this opportunity to demonstrate to people the authenticity of online friendships and relationships.

Through my adventures in the church, podcasting, and online gaming I have been able to meet a multitude of wonderful people across the country and across the world.  I have only met a handful of these people face to face, but the experiences and conversations we have shared online are more real than many “real life” interactions I’ve had with people.  I have also been impressed with the generosity and concern shown in a variety of situations by people whose only connections have been digital.

So I am asking any of my blog readers, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends to consider helping me out in this endeavor so that you can 1) support a great cause and 2) demonstrate the reality of these so-called “virtual” friendships.

The second reason that I am confident of blowing the $3,200 goal out of the water is because I have seen and experienced first-hand the incredible generosity of the people in the church.  I am continually humbled to be serving as a minister surrounded by people, near and far, who have chosen to give of their own resources because they believe that that is what God has called them to do.

The church often gets a bad rap.  God knows that we Christians do some pretty stupid and selfish things sometimes.  But we also are able to do some pretty incredible things too.  In my own church, four time a week we open our doors to people in need and provide meals, food to take home, and other material assistance.  And I know of churches and other faith communities that are doing a lot more.

So I am calling on people of faith to help me with this great cause as a tangible demonstration that our beliefs can make a difference in today’s world.

If you would like to help me with this cause you can see my MDA Lockup homepage by clicking here. Please don’t hold the dated page design or the slow loading speed against me!

If you don’t have the funds available to make a donation at this time but you do have some Photoshop skills then I’d love a donation of a picture of me in jail, behind bars, or somehow locked-up!

One more thing.  If I have the biggest dollar increase in donations by this Friday then I win breakfast at Panera’s for my entire office.  So far no one has even broken the $1,000 mark.  I can smell the fresh baked bagels now…

Thanks for considering this and stay tuned for more updates!

Choosing to Cheat

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I’m just starting to read Choosing to Cheat

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by Andy Stanley.  I haven’t gotten very far into it, but I have found a lot of what Andy Stanley writes and says to be very helpful in my ministry.

The basic message of this short book is that many of us have to0 much to do, and we often find that between work and family something has to give or be left undone.  Nothing new or surprising but near the beginning of the book Andy articulated this conflict in a way that I hadn’t clearly thought about before.

When work and family present us with too much to be done: “What it boils down to is this: Someone is going to get cheated.  Worse yet, someone is going to feel cheated.  Someone is going to feel as if I am not giving them what they deserve or need.”

When I am in triage mode and have to decide what’s going to  be left undone, I usually think of it in terms of tasks.

“What item on my to-do list doesn’t get checked off?”  “What activity at home am I going to have to miss?”

But maybe it is more helpful to think in terms of people.

“Who am I going to disappoint?  Which person is going to feel cheated or ignored because I didn’t do <insert task or activity here>?”

In some ways, that’s a pretty negative way to think about it.  But in other ways, it may help me make different and healthier decisions.

We’re Here (now with pictures!)

Pictures added to my earlier account.

May 22

It’s 11:00 p.m. on Friday night back in Clermont, FL. Here in Addis Ababa it’s 6:00 a.m. as I sit in the guest house listening to the call to prayer at a nearby church or mosque. I’ve been awake since 5:00 a.m. which isn’t that bad since I went to bed around 8:00 p.m. This was the first good night’s sleep we’ve all had in three nights. Tuesday night Carrie and I were packing until sometime between 1:00-2:00 a.m, then we were up and on the way to the airport at a little after 9:00 a.m.

In Detroit airport . . .

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Watching the train inside the airport. There are also some sparrows that fly around eating passenger’s crumbs.

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In Detroit we met up with Uncle David (Carrie’s brother) and flew to Amsterdam.

Uncle Dave is the awesomest.

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Don’t we look fresh-faced and full of energy? Clothes are still pretty clean, too.

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We flew KLM for the flight to and from Amsterdam, which was wonderful because they had great service which included meals and snacks, but most importantly, a personal entertainment system at each seat. This was wonderful, especially for Ben. He watched Alvin and the Chipmunks (The Squeakuel(sp?)), Toy Story 2, and an episode of Ben 10.

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We drove through Addis and finally made it to the guest house around 2:00 a.m. By the time we got settled, unpacked and in bed it was 3:00 a.m. and we needed to be awake around 7:00. We had all managed to sleep a couple hours at a time on the plane, but we were in pretty sore shape the next morning when we woke up. We felt really bad for Ben. We had willingly and knowingly undertaken this, while he was along for the ride, but he has done incredibly well! He is such a good kid! He traveled so well, and dealt with lack of sleep like a trooper.

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DAY TWO . . .

So we woke up around 7:00 a.m. on Friday, May 21. We had very good pancakes for breakfast (and fabulous strong coffee) and then walked across the valley from the guest house to the care center where the children live. This was the road outside the care center gate. Usually the bus would back up the entire length of this road and then through the gate of the guest house on the left — impressive.

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No idea what Uncle Dave is doing here. Pondering the beauty of the flowers? Telling them to be quiet — we all have jet lag?

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Poor Ben was exhausted, and not really in the world’s greatest frame of mind to meet a new sibling.

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On the way from the Guest House to the Care Center. You can see the valley in between with several large houses being built, and mountains in the distance.

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No pictures are allowed in the care center, for the privacy and safety of the other children there.
We all gathered in a very nice and spacious living room area as they called families one by one to meet our children. You can imagine the state we were in; very little sleep in several days, jet lagged, adjusting to a foreign country and now at the moment that we had anticipated and dreamed about for years. We were meeting Birtukan who we “met” on paper in January and had been the focus of our thoughts and love ever since.

We were one of the first (the first?) families to be called. We were walked to her classroom and could see her sitting in the front row as soon as we walked in. She was called forward and came to meet us as her social worker introduced us to her as her Mommy and Daddy. I’m getting teary now writing about it, but at the time all our focus was on her and trying to help her with this strange and awkward moment, so I didn’t have any tears of joy at that point and I don’t think Carrie did (but I could be wrong).

Birtukan’s native language is Wolyaita/Wolayita, but the main language of Ethiopia is Amharic. The social worker stayed with us for 5-10 minutes as we tried to get basic identities down. It was a mix of Amharic, Wolyaita and English. Mama, Mommy, Daddy, A-bot-ya (Amharic/Wolyaita combination of Daddy), Uncle Dave, Go-day (Amharica/Wolaita combination of Uncle), Wen-di-may (my brother), Ben. It’s hard to understand what she was just repeating and what she was actually associating with each one of us. Throughout the morning she did use wendimay to call Ben, and she seemed to be using Mommy and Daddy to call to us, usually when she was upset because one of the other kids wanted to play with the bubbles we had given her.

We spent an hour or so playing with her on a large patio the kids use for a play area. We did bubbles, looked at a book of photos we had put together. This book was one Carrie put together online and it is great. It has photos of our family, of Birtukan, of our house, our rooms, our church, her Sunday School teachers. During this time Ben and Birtukan spent a fair amount of time racing back and forth across the patio on toddler cars that they were both a little too big for.

One of the main concerns had been how we would overcome the language barrier. There were people from the care center around who could help us with Amharic words and phrases, but it’s unclear how much Amharic Birtukan has learned in her time at the care center. When playing with her, not much language is needed; fun translates very easily. But it will be a challenge as we begin to care for her and help her make this huge shift to her new life, and I think we could be in for a very long plane ride on the way home.

Later in the morning we joined the rest of the kids from the care center for a snack and play time. Play time was an experience. 20-30 Ethiopian kids mobbed the 7 American adults and children. Many of them grabbed us by the hand, climbed in our laps and called us Mommy or Daddy; it was highly amusing to watch Uncle Dave’s (young bachelor) reaction to this. The few toys they had or we had brought were highly sought after and mildly fought for. After 20-30 minutes of fun and chaos the children went back to class and we were left with Birtukan again. We played for a while longer and then said goodbye to her and asked the social worker to tell her in no uncertain terms that we would be back.

Our walk back to the Guest House.

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The guest house is the yellowish brown and white trim building to our left. It was about a 10 minute walk, or less, between the care center and the guest house. Nice weather. Friendly people along the way.

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