God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Notes from America – Pt 2: LA to San Diego

Posted by Martin on June 27, 2007

The second part in a very odd series, recounting a trip which is drifting further and further into the past…

Our morning in Los Angeles wasn’t particularly eventful, but we did pay a visit to my favourite eaterie in the world. Don’t think they’ve got a website, but if you’re ever in the Farmers Market, on South Fairfax, devote a few minutes to finding Charlie’s, an authentic American breakfast grill – the sort where they shout things like ‘over easy’ at you (which means about as much to me as Vienna did to Midge Ure). Had a fantastic egg thing with hash browns – again, means something completely different there – and well and truly converted my companion.

We started the second leg of our US tour with a two hour road trip from LA to San Diego. Driving down the freeway with the wind (or at least, air-con) in our hair, in blazing hot sunshine and belting out ‘Sittin on the dock of the bay’ at the top of our voices, we had come as close to fantasy land as you can get without buying a ticket. Although we barely talked about anything, and the landscape was hardly inspiring (mainly road through sparse dry areas), it’s an experience I don’t think Jim or I will ever forget. Pootling along in our little black Chrysler (a kind of scaled-down A-Team van, we liked to think), we were amazed at just how big some American cars are. One guy was driving one of those trucks where you expect a dog and a couple of hitch-hikers to be sitting in the back. In truth, he could have fitted a school trip in there. It was enormous – like a Tonka truck that has been zapped by some sort of giganticizer ray. And there wasn’t a scratch, dirt mark or dent on it; I think the most this near-monster truck was ever used for would have been trips to the burger joint.

We were travelling to visit Youth Specialties, and more specifically, my good friend Mark Oestreicher. Bizarrely, as we rang to get directions, we discovered that Marko was with another Brit – none other than Soul Survivor pioneer Mike Pilavachi. Jim and I were amazed – Mike’s like the lesser spotted invisible dodo when he’s in England (as in, hard to get a meeting with) – yet here he was, in the reception of a youth ministry organisation on the other side of the planet.

TicIt was then our utter privilege to sit in the sun for two full hours and talk youth ministry with Marko and Tic Long, another absolute legend of youth work. Tic is one of – if not the best big stage hosts I’ve ever seen, and certainly someone who you could learn from if, say, you were down to host Britain’s Youthwork the Conference this November. He’s also been at the heart of what Mike Yaconelli started at YS for near on 30 years, making him one of the longest serving people in world youth ministry, by my reckoning.

MarkoMarko has been an increasingly good friend for three years now, ever since Jim and I (we’re not lovers) met him at the Dallas YS convention in 2004. He’s an incredibly sharp guy – and I’m not just saying that because I know he’ll read this, as he does all the other blogs in the world – and a great leader, but he’s also got this irresistible youth worker heart, which is what I think attracts everyone to him. He can try and have some sort of important title like ‘President’, but really he’s just ‘big daddy youth worker’. He very graciously invited us to stay at his lovely house, and to meet his family, who are just great. I won’t reveal any details, but the song he and son Max performed for us over breakfast one morning will be forever etched on the inside of my cranium.

In the evening, after Marko and Jeannie had taken us to a grill to experience ‘chicken fried steak’ (only in America), we were allowed to join the YS staff for a special preview screening of Steve Carell’s new movie, Evan Almighty. YS have been involved in promoting the movie to youth groups and churches, and rightly so – it’s perfect for a family audience, and it also has some deeper theological points to make than you might expect. I may post a review of it elsewhere if I ever get to the end of this travelogue.

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