Dear Friends and Family,

Dear Friends and Family,

As many of you know, I’m the youth director at Crossroads of Faith United Methodist Church in Bolingbrook. I’ve been there since Aug. 2010. Before that, I was the youth leader at First United Methodist Church in Woodstock. 

I currently work with junior and senior high students.

The work is amazing.


On Sunday mornings we run through quick lessons on Jesus’ parables, agape love, and the book of Job. Then, on Sunday nights we dive into pizzas and deep discussions about temptations, living freely with Christ, and the differences between Religion, the Church and Jesus.

We also spend a good amount of time in fellowship. Getting to know each other while playing capture the flag, playing Wii on the church’s projector and eating the massive amounts of candy samples my day job allows me to bring to them.

While in my current role, I have seen youth become different people.

I have seen them turn into disciples of Christ, who are earnestly seeking out His ways and there’s nothing in the world more rewarding.

It is wonderful work.

A big part of that transformation for many of them was last year’s mission trip to Oklahoma. We took 12 youth and three adults. And to this day nearly every single one of them will give you the exact same testimony:

I really didn’t want to go. I was scared and I didn’t know what it was. But Crystal kept telling me to go over and over and over again, and so I decided to go and it was so amazing and I’m seriously so glad I went.

And if you ask nearly any of the parents involved in those youth’s lives, you will hear this testimony:

My child came back different and I thought it was only going to last a couple weeks, but it still hasn’t faded.

For our trips we go through an organization called YouthWorks and this year we are planning to go to the Denver, Colo site.

A typical day on one of these week-long trips is as follows:

6 a.m.: The breakfast crew wakes up. They grab their tennis shoes (only close-toed shoes are allowed in the kitchen) and they head to the eating area to start making breakfast and lunches for everyone on the trip.

6:30 a.m.: Leaders start waking up, so they can get first dips on the one toilet assigned to 50 women. They wipe the sweat from their neck, which accumulated while their were sleeping because their bedroom for the week is a wide open church space that lacks air conditioning. They try not to think about the fact that shower time isn’t until 3 p.m.

7 a.m.: The youth are woken up. Bone tired from the work they did the day before, they crawl out of bed excited about the chance to purely serve God that day. Then, they make their way to breakfast.

7:30 a.m.: Everyone sits down for breakfast and scoops cereal into their mouths as quickly as possible.

8:15  a.m.: Everyone makes their way to the sanctuary, and we all grab out devotional books, a Bible and a pen, and start the day off with God’s word.

9 a.m.-3p.m.: We make our way to our work sites for the day. Sometimes it’s a house that needs to be painted; sometimes it’s a kid’s club, where local kids are allowed to come for free and be fully lead by our youth; sometimes its a nursing home where the patients are looking for someone to sing with and talk to and play Bingo with; sometimes it’s a food pantry that needs young muscle to help sort massive amounts of donated food; sometimes it’s the Salvation Army retail store, where piles and piles and piles of clothes are waiting to be sorted; and sometimes it’s just the side of a highway littered with trash waiting to be picked up. Every single site is amazing, and every single site is scary and pushes you way beyond your comfort zone.

3-5 p.m.: They call these precious two hours free time, but because they’re also you’re only time to shower, it’s not like you end up lollygagging around or anything. Last year, we had off-site showers, which meant that the leaders spent nearly the whole two hours transporting the youth back and forth to the showers, which were at a local high school. The high school was actually under construction while we were there, so what would happen was, we we would walk through what looked like land mines of dirt, go inside, grab a 5 minute shower to rinse off all the sweat we’d accumulated by working all day, then we would walk back to our vans, and immediately get covered in dirt, and start dripping with new sweat from the 110-degree heat.

4:30 p.m.: The leaders also have a 4:30 p.m. meeting every day, and that’s when we met to process our experiences. Our highs, our lows and our exhaustion. 4:30 p.m. also is when the dinner crew heads to the kitchen to start making our meal for the night.

5 p.m.: Dinner. Just one scoop of each thing until we make sure there’s enough for everyone.

5:30 p.m.: The dinner clean-up crew heads in to do the dishes while the rest of get ready for our evening activity.

6-8 p.m.: We head to our evening activity. Sometimes it’s swimming, sometimes it’s a local mid-week church service, sometimes it’s painting pottery with disabled people, and sometimes it’s a community softball game.

8:30-9:30 p.m.: Club time. This is usually everyone’s favorite part of a the day. This when we meet with the entire site group (About 80 people) and we share our Yay Gods (Things God blesses us each with that day) and our Ya Buddies (Things we saw others do that showed God’s love). We also sing songs. At the beginning of the trip, the youth are always scared to jump or raise their hands or even to sing very much. By the end of the week, they’re always jumping up and down to Yes God! Yes God! Yes, Yes God!! And putting their arms over each other’s shoulders while they sing the slow powerful songs.

9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: This is when we go off to be only with our church group. We have some time to intimately discuss the day and the experience and to solidify some of the awesome changes happening in our souls. During this time I have been privileged enough to witness epiphanies, and to talk with kids about deep matters of their hearts.

11 p.m.: Lights out. And everyone is asleep within about 15 seconds.

So there you have it. That’s a typical day on a mission trip. We work hard, but also do the hard work God calls us to do on our souls. There is no way it cannot be life changing for those involved.

People often ask me why we go away for these trips, when there’s plenty of mission work to be done in our home towns, and I will say it’s because I believe the journey there and back is just as important as anything we do at the site. If offers everyone a chance to bond in a blank environment; it helps the youth understand that the world is bigger than Chicago Suburbs, Illinois; and it helps the youth give themselves fully to the experience as they leave behind every single distraction.

And so, all that brings me to our goals for this summer.

Like I said, we’re planning a mission trip to Denver.  God willing, we’d like to take 20 youth, and four adults, and be at the site July 15-20. The Youth Works cost for the trip $278 per child, and then we also plan to rent some vans and drive ourselves down there.

We charge each child $100 for the week, and depend on raising the rest of the money from fundraisers. While at Crossroads, we have done a variety of fundraisers, including selling bottles of water on the Fourth of July, hosting pancake breakfasts, chili cook offs and garage sales, wrapping gifts at Barnes and Nobel for donations, and selling flower pots on Mother’s Day.

However, all told we need about $10,000 total for the trip. And that’s a lot of money.

And so, although it’s only February and the trip is still five months away and we still have lots of fundraisers planned, I would like to extend this invitation to you right now to be a part of this experience by giving us a donation.

But before I go any further, I want to tell you that I genuinely hate asking for money for mission trips. I really, really hate it. My secret fantasy is to one day get to a point in my life where I can just fund youth mission trips completely out of my own pocket so as to avoid the whole messy business of fundraising all together.

But alas, I am not at that point in my life, and I probably never will be. Instead, God has charged me with leading an amazing group of youth, and humbly asking others for donations for the ministry.

I know some of you may not be in a position to donate financially right now, and all I would ask is that you keep us in your prayers. These trips always come together on prayer and it would incredibly valuable to us if you would commit to praying for our journey.

If, however, you do feel comfortable donating funds, it would be really helpful to us, especially right now because we have $2,600 payment due at the end of March.

I want to assure you that I do not ask you for a donation lightly, and that I truly do not want you to feel any pressure to give. However, I also know that you cannot receive if you do not ask, and so, I am asking.  I can also promise you that 100% of your donation will go to support this trip.

If you feel called to support this cause financially please send a check made out to: Crossroads of Faith UMC, with “youth mission trip” in the memo line to the following address:

  • Attention: Crystal Lindell, youth director
  • 1570 Rodeo Drive
  • Bolingbrook, Il 
  • 60490.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter, and for being my friend. I pray you will be truly blessed this year.
Crystal Lindell
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That time I got food poisoning. Part two.

Editor’s note: This is the second of two posts. You can can read the first one here. Also, the following is disgusting. Read at your own risk.

So Sunday night I was home from the hospital, trying to drink 7Up and eat Saltine crackers and hemming and hawing about whether I was going to be able to go to work Monday morning. But by about 10 p.m. I realized that was probably not going to happen and I decided to notify the appropriate people and set out to get healthy enough to go to work Tuesday.

Except I still had epic diarrhea .



And so I spent all day Monday on the toilet. All. Day.

Like I would take a sip of Powerade, and I would have to run to the porcelain throne. Water? The Little Girl’s Room. A cracker?  The Lavatory. Cough? The Potty.

Needless to say, it was a long day filled with pure liquid shooting out of me.

A. Long. Day.

And just because we’ve already shared too much with this story, I might as well go ahead and tell you two more things:

1. It started to hurt after like the 27th time.

2. I was also riding the crimson tide the whole time and so, you know, that added a whole other later of suck to the situation.

By about 8 p.m. I had gone to the bathroom for about 14 hours straight and my stomach was cramping up (but not in the crimson tide way) (you’ll just have to trust me here that I know the difference) so I started to call around and see if there was an immediate care open someone. There was not.

So, at the advice of a Wal-Greens pharmacist, I tried to call the ER and see if they would just call in a prescription for an antibiotic that I could pick up. But because they are stupid, they would do no such thing. Instead, they told me that it was probably not bacteria related and that I would need to come in and get checked out I wanted help.

At that point I tried to tell myself to just stick it out through the night and see a doctor first thing in the morning.

And for those of you who are all, “Why didn’t you call a doctor earlier in the day, when things are open?” I just want to say, “Because.”

Moving on. So there I was trying to figure out how to make it through the night, and my stomach was crapping up hard core, and I was crying and whatnot and I was seriously considering giving up on life. And I kind of totally hit the end of my rope here. So, I called the ER again, and  of course she just kept telling me to come back to the ER.

So I did.

And I had to stop to use the John at a random hotel on the way there, but I made it.

Then, I waited more than hour to get a room and then I waited another 40 minutes or so to see a doctor while only covered with a sheet because they apparently ration blankets in the ER. (Note to Illinois residents: Provena Mercy Medical Center in Aurora is a horrible hospital. Never go there).

When the (cute) (but dumb) doctor finally came in, he was all, “So ya, umm, I think we should get a stool sample.”

For those wondering, basically they give you a little upside down hat thingy to put in the toilet and tell you to do your thing (which wasn’t hard, seeing as how I was going every three seconds) and then a nurse has to come collect the little upside hat thingy.

I felt kind of bad for that nurse.

Also, I was a little worried because of the crimson tide and its potential for messing up the sample, but I was told it would not be an issue.

Then, I went back to my bed and my sheet and I tried to hold some water down.

By this point, my mom and grandma had swooped down from the land of Bryon and were at my bedside, and I love them so much for it. (I also want to point out here that my mom and my little sister [both of whom ate nearly the same food as the same restaurant at the same meal] also had the same symptoms as I did this whole time, only less extreme. In case you were wondering why I assumed this was food poisoning).

Anyway, I drank a few sips of water, didn’t throw up (which wasn’t really an issue seeing as how I had been taking anti-nausea medicine they’d given me the day before), and the doctor came in and said it’d be a few days to get the stool sample results back, but that in the meantime he was going to give me two antibiotics.


I was told I that it didn’t seem like a bacteria thing. And that I needed to come.

So I basically just wasted six hours of my life to be told that they were going to do the very thing I had asked them to do over the phone.



At this point, I was just all, “Give me the stupid meds.”

The doctor also gave me a shot in my butt for the cramps and told me to take an over the counter diarrhea medicine called Lomotol. But he kept cautioning me to only take one a day so that I could get whatever the heck this was out of my system.

“So, only take one,” he would say, and I would nod. And then he would follow that with, “Just one. Only take one each day. Don’t take more than one.” And I would nod. And then, I promise, he would add, “Make sure you take just one.” So then I said, “So I should take ten?” And he looked at me in a way that said, “Dammit, I knew she wasn’t listening.” And then I laughed and then he got it.

I hope he got some sleep shortly after treating me, because the dude needed it.

Anyway, we hiked over the 24-hour Wal-Greens across the street from the hospital and got the prescription filled and sked where the Lomotol was.

That’s when we found out you need a prescription for Lomotol.

I was wondering why I had never in my life heard of that drug.

Stupid doctor.

Luckily, the pharmasist was able to call the hospital and hook me up with that. And I made my way home. I spent the next 24 hours trying to, umm, well, “stop pooping”, as Chris Traeger might say.

But Wednesday morning I was still way too weak to go to work, seeing as how I could barely bath myself so I did as much as I could from home. By Wednesday night, I thought I was doing better, and I was really excited to see that only about 90 percent of the stuff coming out of my body was liquid now.

Thursday morning I attempted to drive into the office, but I only made it an hour because my legs were shaking underneath me because I was so weak. So I only stayed for an hour and then I drove back home and took an hour nap.

And at about 3 p.m., I called the hospital to see if they had gotten back the test results from the stool sample yet and they had and you know what they told me?


No. Seriously. Guess.

After all that poop and vomit and stomach cramps and poop, I promise you they said the following, “Everything came back normal.”

I’m thinking about  following up with an primary care doctor tomorrow.

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That time I got food poisoning and rode in an ambulance. Part One.

Editor’s note: This post is disgusting. Read at your own risk. Also, this is Part One of the story. Tune in tomorrow for Part Two. Read Part Two here.

Like I can only assume is the case for most stories about food poisoning, this one started with steak tacos.

And I’m more than a little pissed about that because steak tacos with corn tortilla shells, cilantro, onion and some lime juice used to be my favorite food in the whole wide world. But now, I kind of want to throw up just writing that last sentence. Dammit.

Anyway, so ya, I ate some steak tacos with my mom and my sister Saturday afternoon at this Mexican restaurant near Rockford. And then Saturday night I kind of threw up in my mouth a little bit one time and I was like, hmm, that’s weird. But I brushed it off as a fluke and went on my merry way back to Aurora.

When I woke up Sunday morning to get ready for church, I realized it was not a fluke. Not at all.

As soon as I got out of bed I headed for the toilet and there I sat for about an hour straight. Pooped out everything I ate for the last week. No joke. Then, I got off the toilet for about three minutes before realizing I need to sit my butt right back down.

For another hour or so.

At this point, I realized that I was probably not going to make it to first service at my church, so I called Pastor Wes and let him know that I thought maybe I had eaten something bad, but that I was going to try my best to get to second service.

Then, after laying in my bed for about 10 minutes, I thought to myself, “Self, you’re feeling a little better. Just go ahead and hop in the shower and get to church.”

So I did. Because I’m an over achieving idiot.

Standing up while showering turned out to be a little too much for my body though, and as soon as I stepped out of the tub I started feeling extremely sick.

And then my hands started going numb. And then my feet started going numb. And then I suddenly found myself wearing only my underwear, on my hands and knees in front of the tub. And then I started FREAKING THE F OUT! And then, my fingers started to curl under so that they were bent in toward my wrists and I lost all control of my hands. And then I started FREAKING THE F OUT!!! EVEN MORE!! And then I was like, “Holy crap, I’m going to die basically naked in my bathroom. Like Elvis. Er well, he was on the toilet, wasn’t he? Oh, who gives a crap right now CRYSTAL! YOU ARE GOING TO DIE HERE IN YOUR BATHROOM WITHOUT ANY CONTROL OF YOUR HANDS!!! HOLY SH*T! What if I’m having a stroke? Is that even a symptom of a stroke? Oh sh*t. Oh sh*t. Oh sh*t.”

Seeing as how I was home alone and scheduled to be at church all day, but had already called said church, I started to calculate that the soonest someone would find my body would be Monday morning.

And then I was like, holy crap CRYSTAL. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER.

And then I made my way over to my cell phone, which was on my nightstand, and I called 911. I had to dial with my knuckles (note to cell phone makers, touchscreens kind of suck for that) but I got through.

Then, I pushed the speaker phone button and tried to tell the woman what was happening.

Except then I realized that my tongue was numb. So I was trying to tell her to, “SEND HELP!” But instead it came out more, “STHED ELP!!” And she was all, “Ma’am, what’s wrong? I can’t understand you.”

And I was all, “STHED ELP!” And then, you know, I started vomiting all over my nightstand and my bed, which didn’t really help the communication situation. Also, diarrhea was shooting out of me. Into my underwear. If you were wondering.

And the 911 dispatcher was all, “Ma’am, can you tell me where you live? What is your address?”

And I was all, “THEW. THEW. THEW. FOUR. OAKRIDGE DRIVE. ARRRORORA!” And then I vomited some more. And some more diarrhea come out.

And then she was all, “Ok, I’m sending paramedics. It’s 2225 Oakridge Drive?”

And then I vomited some more. And then I was all, “THEW. THEW. THEW. FOUR!!!” And she figured it out

I knew though that I needed to tell her my apartment number because there’s like 15 units in my building, so I shouted, “APARTMENT 14!! (Yes, now you can stalk me. Because before this, all you had was Facebook).

She seemed to glean what she needed and after a few minutes I finally stopped throwing up and some of the feeling started coming back into my hands. And the woman asked if  I was able to unlock my door for the paramedics and I did. And then I realized that there was diarrhea in my underwear, so with all the strength I had in my body and with all the coordination I could manage with half-numb hands I set out to put on some clean underwear and a tank top. Which I somehow did. And I even managed to throw the dirty underwear in the garbage can before the 15 paramedics, police officers and firefighters started to file into my apartment. Best. Achievement. Ever.

Of course, there was nothing I could do about the vomit in the bedroom, but, eh. You win some. You lose some.

When help arrived, I felt like I was half dead, and I could barely lift my head, and they worked with me to calm my breathing down and told me that my hands and feet and tongue were numb because I was hyperventilating and my body had too much carbon dioxide in it.

WHAT THE WHAT??!! WHAT? I have never heard of such a thing in my entire 28 years of life. Gray’s Anatomy, ER and Doogie Howser all failed me. Never had I seen this symptom from a patient on any of those medical shows.

Once my breathing started to return to normal, the paramedics said they wanted to take me to the hospital because everything had come on so suddenly, and I was like, “Umm, OK.” So they put me on a stretcher, loaded me into the ambulance, stuck an IV in my arm and drove me to the hospital.

My mom, my sister and my sister’s dad were told about the situation and came out to help. When they finally go there, my sister walked around the curtain and gave me a look that said, “You look like crap.”

Then, I got up to give a urine sample, and while in the bathroom, I noticed that I did in fact look like crap. And when I came out, I was all, “I look horrible.” And my mom was all, “Yes, yes you do.”

About five hours and a slew of tests later, I was given anti-nausea medicine, told I probably had food poisoning, and sent on my merry way.

Of course, when we got back to my house, there was still the matter of cleaning up all the vomit by my bed. And because my mom and my sister are angles in the flesh they took care of it for me.

I love them.

A lot.

I was still having epic diarrhea, and I was still too weak to even hold up my own cell phone, but I thought things were looking up. I was wrong though, of course.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two of this story, where I tell you how I ended up back in the emergency room and I detail the process of giving a stool sample! YAY!

UPDATE: Read Part Two here.

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