A View from Above Boston

Posted on May 24th, 2016

Would you come with me as we take the elevator to the 50th floor of the Prudential Tower in Downtown Boston? I love getting up above the city because it gives me vision.

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Last week, I hosted a group of Cru directors from across the country to share some of what I’ve learned in the last 10 years directing our ministry here in Boston, particularly leading operationally. I took the directors to the top of the Prudential Center to do something I love to do – share the story of God at work in Boston.

Can you imagine the view with me? From this vantage point, you can look North and see all the way up the Coast to Gloucester, my hometown. You can see all sorts of Revolutionary war sites – from the Bunker Hill monument to Old North Church (Paul Revere and “One if By Land, Two if By Sea”). And I showed my friends all of those things. But I really wanted to show them two things: All the colleges, and Fenway Park.

All the Colleges

Looking Northwest, across the Charles River, you see MIT with Harvard, Cambridge College, Bunker Hill Community College, and Tufts all arrayed beyond it. To the West, you can make out Bentley and Brandeis Universities – both on top of hills. You can also see Babson and Wellesley (Hillary Clinton’s alma mater). Much closer in you can see Boston University right on the Charles River. Across the city, you can look out over 250,000 students. Truly there is no bigger college town in the world. And the world comes to Boston – there are over 50,000 international students that study here.

We long for the day when every student on every campus in Boston hears the gospel because we know that if that happened, the whole world would be changed. Coming up to the top of the Prudential Center also gives us a vision of how God might get us there.

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Yellow Shirts at Fenway Park

fenwayIf you look out the window directly west, you can see Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.

Have you ever been to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park? Watching the Red Sox is pretty much the state religion here in Boston. There are billboards that say “Keep the Faith” and “Believe.” Every home game, 37,949 fans make a pilgrimage to Fenway Park.

One thing we’ve started looking at when we go to Red Sox games is the food vendors. You know, the guys selling Fenway Franks and Diet Coke and Cracker Jacks.

At Fenway, they all wear bright yellow shirts. That works really well because they stand out against all the Red, Blue, and White that everyone else wears.

So as you look at the opposite grandstand, you see these Yellow Shirts perfectly spaced out around the stands. Everyone in the stadium is within a hand’s toss of physical refreshment.

brian-and-Malisa-at-fenwayWe long for the day when on every campus, on every dorm floor, in every sorority or fraternity, and on every sports team, there is a team of yellow shirts – a group of students whose lives are so transformed by the Holy Spirit that they can’t help but tell other people about Jesus and bring other people to do the same. So that every student in the city of Boston is within hand’s toss of spiritual refreshment.

Would you pray with us?

We can end our time at the top of the city like I did the other night with my Cru friends – by praying for God’s compassion for this great city. Let’s celebrate what God is doing through “yellow shirts” like Craig on the BU Lacrosse team, Guy and Ja-Hon and Nick in Warren Towers, Matt, Tommy, and Tim reaching their friends at Northeastern, and Eric and Luke at Emerson. Let’s also celebrate what God has done bringing 36 students into relationship with Him this year.

We long for the day when there are yellow shirts in every pocket across the city, but we’re not there yet. Would you pray alongside us for this vision?

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

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Family

Posted on April 16th, 2016

A Middle Eastern Family

When I got together for tea with my friend “Sarah” at the beginning of March, I met her mom and sister-in-law visiting from the Middle East. We had a great time together talking about life and spiritual things. At the end of our time, Sarah’s mom invited me to visit their home in the Middle East. Because I am Sarah’s friend, I am her mom’s friend. What a powerful picture. I pray that one day Sarah and her mother will be part of God’s family. Please pray with us for that.

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Malisa with “Sarah”, her mom, and sister-in-law hanging out with me on campus.

God’s Family Caring for Our Family

Less than 24 hours later my mother-in-law passed away. Over the course of the last few weeks, Brian and I have been overwhelmed with gratefulness. So many of you rallied around us. I was struck by the power of family and the body of Christ to help us keep moving forward when we were weak. Meals showed up at our house; care packages and gift cards arrived from my dear friends in the Northwest; someone cleaned our house; my mom and dad came to help with the day-to-day; our staff team dropped off groceries; so many helped with our kids. Isn’t that another beautiful picture of God’s family? Thank you for your care, prayers, and love towards us.

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Rikka, Malisa, Rose, Ari, and Juliana at Simmons College.

Christ is our Anchor and Family

As a new month begins, I was reminded of this strong theme for the month. In all our discipleship groups this year across Boston, we have been studying the book of Colossians. It is such a rich, rich book. Yesterday afternoon I was huddled into a small study area at Simmons College with a group of 7 other students and a rock-star volunteer, Ari.

We were looking at Colossians 3. Rikka, a new believer, spoke up after we read, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:4).

“What does ‘Hidden in Christ’ mean?” she asked.

I explained that when we become followers of Christ, we find refuge, shelter, and security in Him. He is our anchor and family.

She looked at the group with a huge smile spread across her face. She got it. She has security because of her new identity in Christ.

It was one of those very holy moments.

Thank you for being a part of our family.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

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Prayer Requests

  • For us as we take a group of student leaders on a day long retreat this weekend to help celebrate and remember what God has done this year and plan for the next school year.
  • For the 33 new believers in Boston that their faith would be deep.
  • For our staff team who has experienced a lot of loss in the last 5 weeks. Pray that we will each cling to Jesus during this season.

 

Stories so good I wish I could bottle them up to enjoy them over and over again…

Posted on February 1st, 2016

There are a couple things I’d like to put in a bottle so that I can preserve them to enjoy forever. Like the laughter of my two daughters. They have distinctive delightful laughs that I can’t get enough of. I recorded a bit of it on my phone so I have it when they grow up.

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Eliza, Frosty the snowman, and Sydney a week ago

I’d also like to bottle up the stories our students share during a dinner in January. We call it “the Insider dinner.” It’s a dinner where we challenge students to consider moving back into freshmen dorms. We want our students to be “insiders” and live in community close enough to non-Christians that their friends would notice the difference that the gospel makes.

Joyner shared the story of a Jewish friend who lives on her floor. She has so many questions and wants to know Jesus. Her friend told her “It blows my mind how much love is in what you believe.”

Jacqui added: “It’s humbling. My friend told me, ‘I’ve never seen people care about each other so much.’”

Another student shared that there’s something amazing about sharing the gospel in community. “It is more powerful for 8 of us to be journeying with a group.”

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Here are the insider teams telling their stories to younger students from across Boston

Of course, moving back into a freshman dorm is not cool. And living in community isn’t easy. And trying to share the gospel with friends can be hard.

Ja-Hon says “You know; It’s challenging to live where you work. It’s a big challenge. You are pushed to your limits in little and big ways. But it’s worth it.”

That’s how Malisa and I often feel as we think about our ministry here in Boston. It pushes us to our limits in little and big ways. But it’s worth it.

Malisa and I wish we could have you join us at these Insider dinners because it is only because of your prayers and support that we can celebrate what God is doing like this. Thank you for your partnership.

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This is Sephora, a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Upperclassmen at SMFA can’t move back into dorms, only RA’s can. So Sephora became an RA. She says, “I just keep inviting people. One day, they will say yes.”

 

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

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Prayer Requests:

  • For our insider teams living at Boston University, Simmons College, Northeastern University, MIT, Harvard, and other schools across the city
  • For the non-Christian friends that our students are journeying with – that dozens would say “yes” to Jesus this spring
  • For all our students as they decide on their housing for next year – that many would choose to live near freshmen.

Spiritually they are so open…

Posted on November 11th, 2015

The other day I took Jacqui, one of our younger student leaders, with me to meet two Middle Eastern girls.

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Jacqui is one of the girls in a Discipleship Group I lead at Boston University on Thursday afternoons. Jacqui is the 3rd from the left in the back row with red hair.

“Amira” and “Adilah” are sisters and they were raised in a part of the world where they were part of an invisible population. Because their parents do not proclaim Mohamed as prophet, they are not allowed to work in most mainstream careers.  In order for Amira and Adilah to get any education beyond high school they had to leave the country.  In order to ever work in their field of study they must never plan on returning to their own country and culture.  Yet here were these two girls sitting before me sharing their stories with Jacqui and me.  They told us that they have been in Boston for over two years and neither one of them have any friends.  They study all the time and dream of someday becoming doctors.  Spiritually they are open – very open – about what they think. However, they don’t yet understand that Jesus is the Son of God.

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I’ve blurred their faces for their safety, but don’t you love their smiles!

One of the easiest ways to get into conversations these days on campus is to use a stack of 50 images that we call “Soularium.” I asked the girls to pick an image that described what was currently true about their lives, followed by other questions about what they wish were true about their lives.  Both of them picked images of relationships either with a husband or a group of friends.  The questions continue to get deeper with eventually talking about who they think God is and what they want to be true of their spiritual life.  It was a fascinating conversation that revealed their curiosity spiritually and loneliness in this new country.

As I continue to journey with these two sweet sisters will you pray for Jesus to make himself known to them?  Will you pray for wisdom and discernment on my part as I continue to share about who Jesus is? Will you pray for Jacqui who has faithfully been texting and inviting Amira and Adilah to social events this fall?

Next Wednesday I have invited several other women from the same part of the world over for dinner.  Please pray for great conversations about Jesus as several of my student leaders and I host them for dinner.

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We had a great family hike last weekend and enjoyed the tail end of fall foliage here in New England.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

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How to Pray

  • For Amira and Adilah to come to know Jesus
  • For Malisa’s Dinner party next week (11/18) with her Middle Eastern friends – that the conversations would get deep
  • For Brian’s Men’s BBQ this Saturday – that the men would connect well with each other
  • For our family to walk closely with Jesus and to lean into Jesus.
  • For Brian’s mom, Kay as she continues her treatment for ovarian cancer (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kayellis/ for updates).

 

A Wild Ride

Posted on October 7th, 2015

A Wild Ride

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In the video above, feel free to skip to the 1:30 mark for some intense whitewater 🙂

 

What a wild ride we had last weekend rafting on the Kennebec River with 25 students from Boston University, Northeastern University, and Wentworth Institute of Technology. “When you hit these rapids, you need to make sure you breathe air, not water. You’re not going to go over the waves. You’re going to go right through them.” As I popped out of our raft, I didn’t realize I would need advice on how and when to breathe. But 20 seconds later, I was coughing up water and struggling for breath. What a wild ride!

Every fall, we take a group of men – usually about half Christians involved with Cru and half their non-Christian friends – up to Maine to go rafting. It is intrinsically fun to go white water rafting – particularly on a beautiful, warm fall afternoon. It’s stunningly beautiful, it’s a great adventure, and let’s men, particularly, experience intimacy. Just as you would never golf alone (what would happen if you got a hole in one and nobody saw it), a trip like this gives our students an incredible shared experience. It’s something best done in community.

Hurtling down the river is certainly a wild ride. But the real wild ride happened on the way home. All the guys in my car immediately fell asleep. After all, it was quite a workout rafting all day. But after dinner, they rallied and began to talk. My friend Paul, from Greece, was talking to a freshman named Chris about his relationship with God.

Inside, I was worried a little as I listened to Paul talk about Jesus and how thrilling it was to be intimately connected with Him. It all sounded a little over the top. I wanted to explain to Chris, who is much newer to the Christian faith that this wasn’t the only way to experience God. But I felt God tell me to not say a thing.

When Paul paused, Chris spoke up. “I have talked to many pastors and other Christians, but I have never heard someone share with such effortless joy about being in a relationship with Jesus. This is incredibly attractive to me.”

I smiled. This is what discipleship really looks like – students pointing students toward Jesus Christ. There was something infectious about Paul’s relationship with Jesus.

We experienced beauty, adventure, and intimacy during our wild ride on the river. But we also experienced beauty, adventure, and intimacy during our wild car ride home. Thank you for enabling Malisa and I to join others on their spiritual journey and point them toward Jesus.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

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Prayer Requests

  • That Chris would experience the gospel like Paul has.
  • Praise: AJ, Tony, Peter, Shannon, Catherine, Wes, Nina, John, Sam, and others who have started following Jesus this fall!
  • Praise for the 243 students at our fall retreat this past weekend.
  • For Gospel conversations to continue with Malisa and a few women from Iran here studying Biology.
  • For our family to walk closely with Jesus and to lean into Jesus.

Malisa, Brian, Sydney & Eliza Ellis, Serving with Cru in Boston

Posted on September 16th, 2015

Can you imagine a day when every one of the 250,000 students in Boston heard the good news of Jesus Christ in the most relevant and personal way? We can. And we think we even know how it could happen.

Malisa and I bring over 20 years of campus ministry experience to our roles on the Boston Metro Cru team. We’d love to talk to you more about our ministry with Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) here in Boston.

You can:

 

#Instagramish

Posted on August 25th, 2015

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Here’s an #Instagramish way to pray with Brian and Malisa this month

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Malisa (right) and some of our staff team pose during a prayer walk. Would you pray with us for the next few weeks?
We’ve put a prayer guide online at www.brianandmalisa.com/prayer

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Sydney has had many great family sails on Nana Kay and Grampy Tom’s schooner. Please continue to pray for healing for Brian’s mom.
Here’s her caringbridge site

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It was so fun to be able to visit many of our friends and supporters in Utah. We loved seeing you all. #blessed

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Malisa has discipled Stacy from Northeastern for the last few years. Now she has joined our team as an intern.

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There are 250,000 students returning to Boston in the next week. Pray for spiritual openness & that many would follow Jesus.

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Eliza will be turning 2 in October (and Sydney is already looking forward to turning 5 in February. Please pray for us as parents.

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Ben and Val’s wedding was a family affair: Brian and Malisa did pre-marital counseling, Brian performed the ceremony, and Sydney was the flower girl.

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Brian’s operations team has greatly increased – up to 10 staff now including Sarah (center) and Brittany (right).

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On September 2, we’ll be taking BU students like these to get Ice Cream and fries. It’s a really easy way to connect with freshmen.

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We’re praying for a movement of men to raise up at BU (we’ve got over 100 women involved, but only a handful of guys). Would you pray with us?

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We love you.
Loving our adventurous Lord,

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Prayer Walk

Posted on August 25th, 2015

If you’d like to download a printable PDF, here’s one for:

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  1. West Campus:
    • Abundance of women excited about growing and journeying spiritually.
    • Insider team
    • Lizzy is going to try and weave in Social Justice to one lifegroup
  2. AIA (Athletes in Action):
    • Favor for Sarah B and Bethany at BU
    • AIA Lacrosse Guys
    • Community as a whole with AIA
  3. CFA:
    • Norah and Gwynnie CFA Life Group inside dorm this year.
    • Creative inroads to gospel conversations.
  4. Bridges:
    • Men to get involved in Bridges through Warren co-ed bridges group.
    • Sarah, Ying, and ChenChen (pray she finishes her support raising soon) as they seek to build bridges into new cultures this year
    • Target outreach.
  5. Whole Campus:
    • Faculty, admin, janitors, RAs: including Grace, Kim, and Nick
    • freshmen that we meet at Splash – that many would start following Jesus, Involved new believers from last year would continue to walk with Jesus
  6. Lectio Divina: Matthew 9:36-38
    • What is Lectio Divina?
    • Lectio Divina invites us into God’s presence to listen for his particular, loving word to meat this particular moment in time.
    • How do I practice Lectio Divina?
    • In Lectio one listens to the word as it is read aloud, or you read the text aloud for yourself. Read a Scripture passage slowly and out loud, lingering over the words so that they resonate in your heart. When a word or phrase catches your attention, don’t keep reading. Stop and attend to what God is saying to you. Be open to the word. Don’t analyze it or judge it. Listen and wait. Listen for any invitation that God is extending to you in this word.
    • The Scripture Passage: Matthew 9:36-38
    • When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
  7. Warren:
    • insider team – connection with each other, favor on their floor, that others would see the gospel lived out in their community
    • great freshmen to get involved in the 6 life groups in Warren
    • men to get involved
  8. East Campus:
    • Upperclassmen
    • that sophomores, juniors, and seniors would stay involved in the mission and keep growing as they follow Jesus

 

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  1. Wentworth Institute of Technology: community, missional living in community, Thursday night co-ed group, groups of freshman women and men
  2. Mass College of Art, Mass College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
  3. School of the Museum of Fine Arts: A new leader or two to be raised up this year.   Continued open doors with campus
  4. Simmons College: Good working relationships with university, quick relational connections for staff with student leaders, Rose, Mary, Jenn, Rikka, and Juliana.
  5. Emmanuel College
  6. Wheelock College (and Simmons Dorms): open doors to the Gospel
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  1. Life Group Leaders:
    • Pray for insider team to launch a great sticky community.
  2. Bridges:
    • inroads with international students
    • Pray for connections with Freshman in Stetson and Spear
  3. Incoming freshman class:
    • Pray that we will meet and connect with huge amounts in the first few weeks.
  4. Move toward movement rather than ministry this year:
    • pray for Patty, Sarah Kline, and Ying as they lead out as MTL’s at NU this year.
  5. Praise God for our interns
    • including Stacy who saw over $52,000 come in during their last week of ministry partner development.
  6. Tyler Jensen and Jenna as President and Vice President of Agape

 

Join us this week LIVE

Posted on July 16th, 2015

This week is our Cru national staff conference. Over the next few days, we’ll be hearing from Christina Cleveland, Andy Crouch, Henri Aoun, KA Ellis, Francis Chan and more. Unless the speakers are talking about ministry in sensitive countries, you can watch all the sessions live. Just go to https://cru15.cru.org/watch/index.htm between 9 and 3:30 Mountain time.

The Next Generation

Posted on July 16th, 2015

On a warm Colorado evening a few weeks ago, I set up our little fold-up table that had made the trek from Boston. I laid out my blue and white tablecloth and set out picnic plates and a few other things for dinner. Then I welcomed Patty, Sarah, Emily, Lara, and Lorenna. I was excited to begin a journey with these five incredible younger women for the summer.
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Above: Lorenna, Sarah, Lara, and Patty at our apartment the first night of their new MTL training

This summer, I got to coach these women to become new Missional Team Leaders (MTL). Each of these women will now lead a team of staff, volunteers, and students to help reach campuses like Yale, Brown, Boston University, Northeastern, The University of New Hampshire, Rhode Island School of Design and many more campuses with the Gospel. They will build students into multiplying disciples and they will mobilize students to be sent to the world.

Patty, Sarah, Emily, Lara, and Lorenna came into this training in various ways. Some were excited and hopeful. Some were worn out from this past year of ministry. Some were scared and uncertain about stepping into this new role. One thing they all had in common: they were willing to be vulnerable about where they were at; they were willing to allow the Lord to help cultivate their hearts for what He was calling them to.

Isn’t it just like God to use small group community to help us grow?  Over the course of the training, our group encouraged Lorenna to use her gift of strategy and her skill in business to think through how she could set up her team well for this up coming year. Lara shared openly about her fears. She struggled to be strategic, but has great ideas about developing engaging and open communities at Yale. In this small group, each woman started thinking about how their understanding of their personal ethnic identity impacted the way they led.

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Above: My whole coaching group. Clockwise from top left: Lorenna (Brown, RISD, Rhode Island), Emily (UNH), Sarah (BU, Northeastern, Wentworth), Patty (BU, Northeastern, SMFA), Lara (Yale), and me.

Would you please join Brian and me in praying for these five women as they begin to lead this fall? They are each leading alongside others who are seasoned and welcoming their fresh perspectives. Would you also pray for the incoming freshman who are preparing to coming to campuses around New England and New York in the upcoming month.  It is because of your partnership in ministry that Patty, Sarah, Emily, Lara, and Lorenna are on their ways to being great new MTL’s. It is because of you that Brian and I are able to trust Jesus for these five women to impact the lives of students across New England and New York. It is because of you that we can trust Jesus for our own impact in the lives of students who do not yet know Jesus.

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Above: family night at Mary’s Mountain Cookies Sydney is eating a “S’more” cookie. My mom always says, “Eat dessert first.” We agree.

Just a little ministry highlight: Social media has already been helping us to connect with incoming freshman before they even get to campus in the next month. At Northeastern we have seen close to 50 freshman reach out to us wanting to either hear more about the Gospel or be part of a small group that focuses on the Gospel. Similar things are happening around the city of Boston as well.
Loving our Adventurous Lord,

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Above: Sydney and Eliza have had a great summer playing with their new friends and neighbors for the summer Liam and Ethan.

How to Pray

  • For Patty, Sarah, Emily, Lara, and Lorenna as they return to New England to lead on campus
  • For incoming freshmen across New England and New York who do not yet know Jesus
  • For Brian and me as we continue to raise our girls
  • For Brian’s mom, Kay as she continues her treatment for ovarian cancer (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kayellis/ for updates).

How to Give

You can give a special gift to support our ministry.

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We took Brian for a great family hike for Father’s Day. We wore Eliza and Sydney out in the process 🙂