Archive | Adventure

We Bought a (Llama) Zoo: A Story of Spontaneity and Imagination

A few months ago, Lisa and I went to We Bought a Zoo. We loved the movie. In the film, a family suffers a tragic loss and spontaneously buys a deteriorating zoo. The antics of running a zoo bring the family together. The movie tugged at me because, in addition to my dream of an Apple Orchard, I would have some land filled with a variety of unordinary animals–my own wild kingdom of sorts. Buffalo (American Bison) are my favorite due to my South Dakota roots. I’d also have a few caribou, maybe an emu or two, and some llamas. I’ve always loved Llamas. There was a llama farm near where I grew up and, when I was little, every time we would drive by, I’d yell: “Llamas in pajamas!” (The pajamas are their shaggy, multi-colored coats.) My affection for llamas grew out of several trips to Peru, particularly as we crossed paths often hiking on the Inca Trail.


When we arrived home to Lisa’s farm for Easter, the mood was a bit solemn. Barb, Lisa’s mom, had a horse named Jack who was very old and ill. He had to be put down that night–and he was a favorite horse. After the incident, Barb announced that she was finished with animals. This was a sad announcement because a yard full of animals is an institution at Lisa’s farm in Worthington, Minnesota. Barb is known for taking animals that need a good home–they take in retired horses and have had everything else from donkeys to peacocks. At dinner that night, I immediately suggested Barb should get llamas. Barb, of course, reiterated that she was done with animals.

The next day, I called the same local llama farm that we drove past regularly when I was young. It was a bit of a strange call: “So, my mother-in-law just lost her favorite horse and we think she should get a llama to fill its place.” “Oh, okay…” said the voice on the other hand. “Can we come out and see your llamas?” I replied. “Sure, she said, anytime is good, just call.” “We’ll be there saturday morning at 11 a.m.,” I said.

When we got back to the house that night, I announced to everyone that we had an appointment at the llama farm in the morning. Everyone laughed. Then I said was serious and they looked surprised. Barb said she wasn’t going to get a llama, but she would go and look at them. Glenn was excited to see them. Lisa couldn’t believe I actually called.

The next morning, I woke up bright and early for llama day. As soon as I got upstairs, Chris (Lisa’s sister’s boyfriend) broke the news that Barb said she wouldn’t get a llama and didn’t even want to go see the llamas. By 11 a.m. she had changed her mind–but we were “only going to look.”
We all piled into the truck and drove 2 miles down the road to the llama farm. There were llamas everywhere. Hundreds of them–and alpacas. Little did I know, this seems to be one of the larger llama farms in the U.S. They sell llamas all across the country and have their own multi-page llama catalog and make llama accessories, such as halters.


First, we saw the alpacas–common in Argentina–they stand about 4-feet tall and are rather adorable. The llamas stand 5-6 feet tall and just look funny–long necks, bulging eyes, shaggy coats, and pointy ears. The llama farmer yelled, “Come here!!” and all the llamas got up across the pasture and started running to us at the fence. I think Barb was sold at at the sight of hundreds of llamas running toward her. The llama farmer described how llamas keep the grass mowed and keep away predators–coyotes, foxes, raccoons–and even rabbits. Between grass mowing and coyote defense, Glenn was ready to bring some home. “Maybe we will get one,” she finally admitted. “But I want to think about it.”

When we went back to the house, Barb looked us: “Maybe we should get the horse trailer and go pick up three of them.” Everyone was excited. We all sat around as she called the llama farmers back and to tell them we would be over to pick up three llamas. A minute into the phone call, Barb suddenly said, “Seven?!? …If we buy three, they will throw in four more… Um, I’m going to have to talk to Glenn about this.” Lisa starts yelling: “Mom, just start with three!” Renae is laughing hysterically. Chris appeared to be in disbelief of what was happening. I, of course, began cajoling her to take the seven. Glenn said, “They’re free? Just take them all.”

Two hours later, the llama truck pulled into the Kremer’s farm and seven llamas poured out the back.


My favorite image was Barb with five lead ropes being pulled by her herd from the llama trailer into the pasture. I laughed until I cried. She had, indeed, bought a zoo. The sad loss of the horse was quickly surpassed by joy. It’s amazing how a little spontaneity and imagination can turn things around in an instant. As Lisa said that night: “That was one of the best day’s ever on the farm.” As Chris remarked: “I’ve never had a day like this.” It’s just like We Bought a Zoo.



But, don’t worry, the llama fun doesn’t stop there. More fun was on the way the next day… to be continued..



My Favorite Photos from 2012 Thailand Trip

These photos were taken on the Pepperdine University School of Law Spring Break Service trip to Northern Thailand.  We spent 10 days along the Thai-Burma border visiting refugee camps and working with various humanitarian organizations.  Read my story on the experience of staying the night in Mae La Refugee Camp.


Visiting the buddhist temple at Doi Suthep.


Refugee Camp Fence Crossing

Crossing the barbwire boundary into Mae La Refugee Camp.


Receiving a tour of Mae La Refugee Camp.


Mae La Houses

Mae La is nearly identical to a Karen village in the jungle.



Listening to harmonies of Care Villa–a home for amputees of landmine injuries.



Negeen and Amy making two new friends.


Steps to the Prayer House

Steps up to the Prayer House overlooking Mae La Refugee Camp.


Girl with Beads

I see you too.



Grant bellowing out Battle Hymn of the Republic at devotional service in Mae La.



Riding elephants.


See more from the trip!

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Thailand Update #2 – Off to the Burma Border

Note: We are back in the States, but I had little time to write on the trip.  The updates are still coming!

Last weekend, we took a deep dive into the realities of cross-border aid and the changing political landscape in Burma.  We had the opportunity to sit in on important meetings with the Free Burma Rangers, journalists, and ethnic leaders.  Our access to these meetings was kindly granted by great friends.  For our students, it was an unprecedented look into the matters they would be seeing very closely the next few days.

On Monday morning, we started our most extensive journey: A drive to the border and the refugee camps.  First, we began the morning with a brief visit to the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai to learn about our government’s position with respect to Thai-Burma border matters.  Given the latest developments in the government of Burma, this meeting was timely.  We were briefed by the Vice Consul.  When I told the Vice Consul we were headed to Mae La Refugee Camp, he was surprised and said that they often couldn’t even get Senators and Congressman in who want to visit.

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Far Far From Normal: A Quick Note From a Refugee Camp

I’m about ready to go to bed at Mae La Refugee Camp on the Thai-Burma border. It’s my fourth trip here and the first for the 9 students joining me. It’s always leap from normal to return here. A left turn off nicely paved Thai roads, down a bumpy dirt road, and you’re suddenly transported into a land that seems far far away from anything normal (at least for those of us from America). On this trip, we got to explore further in the camp than I have ever gone before. We hike way back to end of Zone C, then up onto a hill just outside the camp and overlooking a significant portion of it.

Mae La Camp

I think (and hope) the students are enjoying it. I hope it’s an unforgettable experience far from normal for everyone. Just experiencing the camp is significant, but it’s other experiences like trying Karen food or talking politics with landmine victims.

We’re fortunate to be able to come here. I looked through the visitor’s book and found the names of friends and students, including myself, since I started bringing students here in 2009. It’s an honor that we get access, that people trust us enough to allow us to visit. We visited the U.S. Consulate the other day and when they heard we were going to Mae La Camp, they were shocked. “We can’t even get U.S. Senators in there,” they said. What is a prison for tens of thousands of people is an honor for us to visit.

In my view, visiting a refugee camp and hearing the plight of refugees is an experience that everyone needs.  It changes your perspective.  It challenges you in what it means to travel and how you live.  And, those who live in the camps appreciate that you’re willing to show up and be with them.

See my Favorite Photos from our visit to Mae La Refugee Camp.


Thailand Update Coming Soon

I intended to write almost daily from
Thailand. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened. We’ve been incredibly busy. Then, tonight, my wireless password is not working on the laptop and I’m too exhausted to go downstairs and get a new one.

I hope to write a longer update soon. Some cliffnotes:

Met with past UN Burma Chief
Spent a lot of time with FBR
Had fun visiting my friend Ami
Went zip lining with Bob
Students arrived
Hiked and had fun at Ranger Ranch
Got a Human trafficking briefing
Tomorrow meeting with US Consulate
Off to refugee camp area


A Quick Trip to Korea and On to Thailand

It’s been a very busy few days and I’m finally sitting down to write something. Last Friday night, Lisa and I drove out to Palm Springs, California. We stayed in a cheap hotel (the cheapest we could find) and woke up after only a few hours to compete in the Desert International Triathlon. It was the first race of the season and I set new personal bests on the swim, bike, AND run. Lisa also got third place in her division. Not a bad morning. We drove back to Calabasas so I could pack quickly in order to board a plane bound for Korea that evening.

The next morning, I woke up to our wheels touching down at Incheon International Airport outside Seoul, Korea. We were immediately wisked away by our friend Paul Shin of Handong International Law School. He arranged meetings with lawyers and professors in town. One meeting was with the Christian Legal Fellowship in Korea (pictured above). Bob and I both spoke briefly at the meeting.

That afternoon, we took the bullet train for two hours, then a cab for an hour, and finally arrived in Pohang. A large city, which many Koreans think of as a fishing village. Handong is located out in Pohang far on Korea’s east coast. We had a traditional Korean diner with Dean Eric Enlow.

The next morning, we rose to get ready for Bob’s talk to the law student body. It was the commencing of a new academic year at the law school, so there was some pomp and circumstance. We got to wear academic robes and parade in. Bob got a rock star introduction, and spoke about Jesus and the Law.

The talk was followed by a lunch, then a hike in the woods surrounding the Handong campus. I had to hurry back to prepare for my talk on the “duty of Christian universities to solve complex global problems.” About 150 students and faculty showed up–it was well-recieved with lots of questions.

The following morning, we drove north into the mountains to visit a historical Buddhist temple, then caught our train back to Seoul for the flight to Chiang Mai.

Overall, Handong was a wonderful school to visit. The school is doing great things and the law program has a unique model. I hope to talk more about this in a later post, but I’m exhausted tonight. We had an incredibly good and busy day in Chiang Mai, Thailand (day 1 here).

More to come soon!


Announcing my upcoming book: “Go and Do”

I am thrilled to share that I have a new book coming out this spring: Go and Do: Daring to Change the World One Story at a Time will be published in May by Tyndale House Publishers.  Inspired by all we’ve learned through the Global Justice Program, Go and Do has been a 2 1/2 year journey that is finally coming to fruition.


Go and Do is a dare.  It’s a dare to go out into the world, witness the raw edges of humanity and respond to what you see.  We stand on the edge of a great mutual exchange where our desire for purpose matches someone else’s need for survival.  Maybe this book will find you in the same place this message found me a few years ago–wondering what I was doing here and what my purpose was.  Or maybe you’ve taken this leap of faith and you know someone who needs a change in their life as well.  I hope you’ll join me in this journey.


Learn more about the book on the Go and Do website.


Watch the Book Trailer:


Pre-Order the Book Now

Go and Do will be available on May 1—pre-order the book now from these online stores or a bookstore near you.


From the Back of the Book:

“What am I doing here?”

Ever find yourself asking that question?  Of course you do – we all do.

Well have I got a challenge for you – one that might just change your life!

I dare you to go out into the world, witness the raw edges of humanity and then do something about what you see.

I dare you to “go and do.”

As Christians, every day we are called to take a step of faith for Christ, to change our world and in doing so, to change ourselves.

Go and Do is an invitation to join in the adventure of God’s story and understand the part we are each meant to play. As we step out on this journey, we discover an incredible truth: Our need for purpose matches someone else’s need for survival.  And there is nothing more fulfilling than that.

I dare you to join us.

–Jay Milbrandt


How You Can Help:

  1. Naturally, I would be deeply honored if anyone I know orders the book.  It’s already available for pre-order.  True to the theme of the book, I will be giving away personal proceeds (if any!) from the book to various global justice projects featured in the stories I share.  We are currently making some strategic plans for this, which you’ll hear more about these in the upcoming months.
  2. I would love to have your help in spreading the word.  Go and Do is a great message for our time–a message that I believe desperately needs to be shared–and word-of-mouth is the best tool.
  3. Check back often for updates.  I will writing regularly as we approach the release of the book.  I’ll be organizing various events related to its release, so stay tuned!  And, if you have suggestions, I am willing to be available anytime, anywhere to promote it.
  4. Follow along on the blog over the next two weeks as I travel back to the Thai-Burma border with students from Pepperdine.  You’ll get a flavor for what “go and do” truly means.

Behind Everything, There’s a Story

I have an insatiable curiosity to know the “Why?” of everything.  I could get lost on Wikipedia for hours looking up everyday items and respected people to know their backstory.  Or when I hear a song I enjoy, I always Google “__________ song meaning.”  For example, did you know the Beatles’ song “Hey Jude” was originally “Hey Jules” and written to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian through his parents’ divorce?  Fascinating.  And all this time I thought it was simply catchy.

What it comes down to is that there’s a story behind every single thing.  And, for the most part, we take all these stories for granted.

Bedford Tie

This week I attended a trade show in Anaheim that displayed everything from synthetic skin tissue to wood packaging crates to rubber tubing.  Many of the items, you would in find in your house (absent synthetic skin).  I was reminded how, behind each of these products, there was probably a great story.  Many people likely invested their entire lives to bring it to reality and perfect it.  As Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie and Five People You Meet in Heaven, aptly wrote: “But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking.”

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Fast New Rides: Our Trek Speed Concept Tri Bikes

The spring triathlon season will soon be upon us!  As a matter of fact, our first race is in three weeks from today.  Lisa is stepping it up this year with a new tri bike and we finally had the opportunity to take it out on the road.  It was fast.

Speed Concepts

We are now both riding Trek Speed Concepts.  Lisa’s is the white one on the left.  For me, I added new aero dynamic wheels in hopes of increasing my mph average.  We’re looking forward to this upcoming race — the Desert International Triathlon — to see if speedy rides make a difference.  It should be a fast spring!


Inspired by Incredible People this Week

I usually try not to go more than 3-4 without a blog entry, but this week has been an exception.  With major deadlines on several large projects, back-to-back meetings in DC, speaking engagements, and a brief stop to visit my grandparents, I found no time to write.  But now, I’m finally back in California after a whirlwind week.


A highlight of the week: The National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C.

The National Prayer Breakfast is annual gathering in the spirit of Jesus that “unites individuals of various nationalities, religions, and political orientation in the power of prayer.”  It’s an ecumenical gathering of over than 3,000 guests from more than 130 nations.

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