September 12, 2007

The Next Year

(Written and posted on facebook a while back; quick apology to my friends who I haven’t gotten to talk to individually about the plans…)

Over the last year my desire for humanitarian work has grown and has been reinforced by many, many passages in the Bible. I started looking around online to learn more about the Peace Corps and agencies like it. I kept running into a problem though—with many of those agencies, I had no guarantee that I would be able to be part of a church wherever I ended up.

Months later, I started looking for Peace Corps alternatives, and saw that Americorps’ CityYear program had a site in Philadelphia—where I had been part of Urban Imperative two years ago. So I had a church. And if I applied by midnight of a certain date, I had the chance to get into the program.

My thinking was that if anyone were to give a year of life in volunteer work for underprivileged communities, it should be a Christian—someone who feels amazingly privileged because of the good news of Jesus, and one who is called by Him to care for needy people.

If there are programs for ameliorating the dying inner-city communities with tutors, mentors, and all-purpose volunteers, Christians should be the first to join. It should never be said of us that we have a lot to say but not as much to do.

With all that in my mind, I sat in that apartment in the center of Manhattan last May, put my class work on hold, wrote 4 essays, finished my application, and sent it off at 12:05am. A little late, but it worked.

2 phone interviews, 2 references, and 2 months later I received confirmation that I had been accepted.

So this Wednesday, I’ll be taking another trip up the east coast. Part of me just wanting to be in the city, part of me wanting something out of the ordinary, but some part of me wanting to live pure religion, because…

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to kept oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

Posted by mgemb at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2007

more travels and a link

After a day-long drive, a housewarming party with strangers, crazy phone calls, and googletalking...I'm ready for bed--or futon, I should say.

I was sad to leave NYC last Saturday, and I was sad to leave SC today. Or yesterday, since it is 1:17am. So far my summer has been great, but entirely unhelpful in giving me direction on where to live for however many days or decades I have left. I loved NYC, I loved being back home this past week, and now I love being back in Philadelphia for a couple days.

But I can safely say that I don't think I'll stay in NH, which is my next destination. As great as camp is...NH has the drawbacks of the North (i.e., cold) without its benefits (i.e., big cities). I can get beautiful countrysides in the South where I can also be warm or even hot, darn it. Now if a nothern style city ever ends up in the South...that would be wonderful. Enough...

Here are the links for a project my group did back at WJI. Definitely amateur, but still exciting. We used Soundslides and Garageband.

WJI media presentations

My group's presentation

Posted by mgemb at 01:27 AM | Comments (1)

May 31, 2007

Crazy days and pictures

It’s about 12:20am here in 22H, also known as “22 hotness” according to my roomies. From 10pm until 1:45am I am screaming for productivity but still keep catching myself checking e-mail or facebook.

Going to bed before 1am has been a Herculean (no, nonexistent) achievement for me up here lately. We have 4 book report-type assignments and 3 real articles due at midnight Friday night. Feels almost like undergrad again, except that here I might actually sleep for a few minutes.

I’ve been posting some pictures on facebook, but I think these links should work whether or not you have facebook.

Memorial Day Album

WJI New York Album

I really love the city. Not always in a completely virtuous, compassionate way. Maybe I just like it. I like the big tall buildings and the views and subways, even though I’ve blown hours up here learning them the hard way, once ending up in the wrong borough.

I like having a balcony looking out into a place that never stops. I’m not thrilled that the only star I see…actually isn’t a star, it’s probably a planet. Nevermind.

But other things make up for not having stars. Going to the top of the Rockefeller Center or sitting on big rocks in Brooklyn beside the river with friends across from the Manhattan skyline…

Or wandering dozens of Manhattan blocks just to see what is there while listening to Jerram Barrs talk about Francis Schaeffer (free seminary class lectures online from Covenant Seminary!)…

Or jogging to see the sunset and to read the Psalms from the pier at 42nd street on Manhattan’s west coast…

Or melting in front of a construction site the size of 4 city blocks where thousands died and where two massive buildings once stood.

An art therapy project on display nearby shows crayon drawings of burning towers with inside jokes and simple I-miss-you’s written in children’s handwriting.


Continue reading "Crazy days and pictures"
Posted by mgemb at 01:01 AM | Comments (1)

May 19, 2007

MOMA, the mosque, and me

Listening to Covenant Seminary lectures on Francis and Edith Schaeffer by Jerram Barrs (, cleaning the apartment, and cutting up a semi-sweet pineapple.

A few of us visited the Museum of Modern Art last night to top off one of the busiest days up here. I like to think of myself as someone who appreciates art to some degree, but I was an extra wimpy art critic compared to the hardcore ones all around me there at the MOMA.

I think Jackson Pollock was my favorite, but Monet, Balla, and Rothko amazed me also. I’ll need to learn more to really appreciate Picasso, though.

Several of the artists were communicating by their art that God does not exist,
but it was actually a really worshipful experience, seeing beauty and praising Him for it.

Dan Perjovschi intriqued me with his political marker-like drawings (see It’s anti-war and anti-capitalism, but not cliché. I appreciated his critique of materialism the most, especially one picture of a man turning away a homeless person, telling him his house was full. Behind him his house was full of cars, tv’s, toys, a pool, etc.

Another interesting drawing was simply a massive “ME,” with a very small “you” underneath the “E.”


We visited a mosque yesterday, after having spent the morning learning about the Islam in today’s world. Our guide was taking classes at the Baptistchurch-turned-synagogue-turned-mosque. He had grown up as a Catholic, converting to Sufi Islam after completing a religious studies degree at a public university in America. His expression of Islam is much more peaceful than the stereotype, and he was a gracious host.

We attended a service, and the message was translated into English. The text taught, “Do not turn away from the pardon” The Imam taught the assembly always to forgive, and never to seek revenge for self, but “only for Allah.”


I’m enjoying my time here a lot. I had absolutely no reason to stay up until 1:30am last night, but I ended up having a great time talking to one of my roommates and praying together. Then I fell asleep on the futon with my face on my journal, waking up noticing my face feeling weird at 6:45am. I had just fallen out of stomache-like balloon in the sky that my friend Adam Choi had trapped me in because I was chasing him down in a field for stealing my car in the city. Thankfully, he got distracted swatting moths and so I was able to escape. I wish I remembered my dreams more often.

Posted by mgemb at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2007


Enjoying sitting here in the living room of our apartment here in NYC. About to work on some of my assignments for the World Journalism Institute, which I'm attending here until the beginning of June.

3 couches in the room, a tv that hasn't been on since I've been here, a great view down the Avenue of the Americas from our balcony. So a nice set up.

Read with some of the other students today in Bryant Park, then came back for a typical (but very good) meal with single people--spaghetti.

Lots of good discussion. Several of our Christian colleges were paid a visit by Soul Force, so we talked through how our schools handled it. Also several interesting questions from the other students about my dear alma mater.

I think it will end up being a good time of Christian fellowship, and not just school. Maybe it will be the college dorm experience I never really had.

I took a long walk last night so I could learn more of the city on my own, so I went maybe 15 blocks or so, putting on my New York face and ear buds to act like I had somewhere I needed to go, of course.

Some observations from my walk last night,
by the numbers...

5 Starbucks stores
4 McDonald's
3 Subways
1 couple making out
1 embarrassing game of footsies
2 Café Europa stores
2 otherwise normal men talking to themselves
2 Ann Taylor Loft stores

Continue reading "NYC"
Posted by mgemb at 10:44 PM | Comments (5)

April 20, 2007


I am watching someone happy--not in a stalker way, but in an observing kind of way...

She is wearing a mid-calf-length pleated (maybe) khaki skirt. A pink/white scrunchy thing ties back her frizzy, dirty blond hair. Her collared maroon shirt just kind of hangs. She's playing ping pong and doesn't seem to have a care in the world. She is neither cool nor graceful, and nothing is particularly impressive...but she is smiling--and laughing a lot. Now she and her friend are playing foosball, still with a constant smile on her face.

and then I stand here at the e-mail kiosk, contemplative.

just got out of a dramatic presentaton of the lives of John and Betty Stam, martyred missionaries to China.

This was Betty's prayer at age 19:

"Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my own desires, hopes, and ambitions and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to Thee, to be Thine forever. I hand over to Thy keeping all of my friendships, my love; all the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Work out Thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever. 'To me to live is Christ and to die is gain.'"

and so now I stand here at the e-mail kiosk, contemplative.

Somehow those two things simplify life for me tonight.

(written and sent in an e-mail a few weeks ago)

Posted by mgemb at 10:26 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2006

Popping the question

Posted by mgemb at 03:43 PM | Comments (5)