Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Island Life: Final Edition

Yes! Team Philippines is all home and well. (As I am sure many of you have seen us back in the States!) Talk about D-E-L-A-Y-E-D blog...I guess time really got away from us towards the end, so much to little time :D Our plane landed aprox. 10 pm Tuesday the 25th and after fully 16 hours on 2 different planes, we were all happy to set foot on American soil :D. Back to the real world once again.
In the last couple of weeks we managed to:
Hike during a monsoon
have a going away party with Habitat for humanity
Hang out with our host family (aka fake mom, dad, sisters, and brother) LOTS
Visit the American Memorial Cemetery close to our house
Go to a Filipino cultural night with Mia, our Habitat coordinator
Eat some authentic Filipino cuisine (John ate Bolute-an aborted duck egg...complete with feathers and bones! hooray! needless to say, the rest of us DID NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
We also were blessed to support a new friend getting Babtized on a beautiful beach north of Manila
Our last weekend we stayed at the beach for 2 nights with our mission coordinator to reflect and debrief with the team and take a break from the hard work :)
All in all, our progress report for Habitat for Humanity was:
CIB-215 bocks
Bending of rebar-3,436 pcs.
Cutting of rebar-2,629 pcs.
Tying of rebar-24 beams
sand sieving-7 cubic meters
Hauling of black sand-1,585 sacks
Hauling of white sand-2,718 sacks
Transferring of CIB to 4th floor (with help from lots of friends!)-3,106 blocks
Wow, what an amazing summer!!! Through all the hard patches and good, we all made it home safe and had a truly life-changing experience. Thank you for all of your prayers and continued support, praise God who deserves all the glory
"For we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" Romans 8:28
I'll (Britt) sort through some picts to post up, so check back! God bless!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

There and Back Again--A Kenyan Tale by Bilbo Baggins x 4

In a house called Wageni, there lived four young mzungus.

In other words, our summer in Kenya is coming to a close, and we are feeling a bit nostolgic. Tomorrow is our last day of teaching. We honestly can't believe that we accomplished 6 weeks of full time teaching. It is all by the grace of God. We are trying to squeeze as much as we can into our last few days here. Tomorrow we are going to try to learn how to make some traditional Kenyan dishes that we have grown to love over our time here.
There are so many things that we will miss about Kenya. It really has come to feel like home, and we feel like family. Everyone on staff here is so great. The mamas are constantly giving us encouragement, and very generous extra helpings of ugali. In other words, we've grown in body and soul. But it was worth the "weight" ah hahahahahaha. The missionaries here are so good to us as well. We are always being invited over for good food and good company. The stories of how they came here are all so amazing.
Amy has been transitioning her teaching roles every week. Now she has found home with the three year old class. Needless to say she has finally found a group that she can relate to. Mindy is loving her seventh graders more and more every day. If only she could say the same about Pilgram's Progress, which she has to teach. The kindergarteners continue to be her daily entertainment. Abby's 8th graders just finished their final class debate, which was about intervention in African affairs. She has enjoyed learning the perspectives of the students who live outside of the compound. Megan is enjoying answering irrelevent and often hilarious questions posed by her 2nd graders. It has been challenging in ways she never expected. They will be missed.
We will be home soon, and can't wait to tell you all our stories in person.
Amy Wagoner x 4

P.S. Zac Efron is The Derby Stallion

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It was a lot easier for Team Ireland to get out of the country than it was to get in.

Despite our negative feelings toward the Belfast International Airport, we were forced to go back. They were much happier to let us leave than they were to let us in 2 months ago. Our trip back was relatively painless, though I think we are all suffering from serious jet lag. Especially considering the fact that we got little to no sleep the night before we left, as we were busy catching up with friends from the various camps we had worked at.

Our last week was quite challenging, but a great place to be for our last few days in Northern Ireland. We worked in Lisnabreen Presbyterian Church, holding events for 11-18 year olds who came from very rough backgrounds. We were definitely given many opportunities to practice patience and love. The kids were crazy, but full of questions about what it means to be a christian, which was really encouraging. Our final week showcased our exhaustion- mentally, physically, and emotionally. It is nice to be settled in at home, though a very hard adjustment to make. Thank you for all of your prayers and support. This has been an amazingly unique experience for each one of us.

Team Ireland

The Tech Campers created an awesome video about "The Seattlites"- which can be found on youtube:

Kenya: yes we are still here :)

How long has it been since our last post? One week? We're just so busy we lose track. It gets hard being full time teachers, and then having all our other work at night. Sometimes we only get to see our kids for an hour or so a day. However, we LOVE the work we're doing here and our time is never wasted.

Our latest task was to cover and label every book in the school K-8. We finished grades 7 and 8 in a week's time. We aren't sure if we'll finish them all before we leave but we'll keep working at it. We spent most of our evenings this week working on them.... except when we watched Titanic... oops :)
Our hearts are going on... and on... and on...

Overall it wasn't an ridiculously eventful week. This weekend was the first time we stayed on the compound and didn't go adventuring around Nairobi. We ended up playing knockout (or bump) with the older kids for approx. 3 hours. It was bliss. It's such an accomplishing feeling when you win against them all, but then you remember that the oldest kid is 12.... and all that accomplishment vanishes. The weekend has been restful. Haven't had rocks in the soup in a few days, so that's been good. We played some good hardcore soccer tonight, followed by a great jam session in the guest house with some new visitors. Life is good.

2 more weeks here and we'll be on our way. The permanent missionaries here on site have been trying to convince us to email home and try to raise funds to stay until the end of September. I wish. 2 more weeks it is... :(

Please be praying for us to be able to emotionally handle leaving these children; and that the children will be able to adjust to us leaving as well. We've seen people come and go and it isn't easy on the kids. Also pray that we make the most of our last few weeks here. Hope everything at home is wonderful :)

Signing out,

Amy Wagoner x4

.5 of Team Turkey is Home....


Saturday morning as we got ready to leave for the airport Landi's wallet got stolen- passport, credit cards, everything. The consolate can't do anything for her until monday morning. Kady and Brittany made it home safely- Kate and Landi are booked on a flight from London to Seattle monday afternoon, but are flying standby from Istanbul to London. Please pray that Monday morning goes smoothly for them- getting a passport and getting on that plane!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Team Bethlehem is safely home, jetlagged and enjoying the wonderful weather (read: not 100 degrees)...

One Long Last Update from Team Bethlehem:

3 weeks ago:
The Saturday trip was to our very own Bethlehood & only K decided to join in, while the others did their own thing because we've a lot of the stuff here already: L went with the kids from the Ansar Center to Ramallah where they swam, went to a fun park and ate an excessive amount of sugary treats. C went to Deheiseh refugee camp to help with a kids camp one of our friends has been working at there. J was in Tel Aviv at the beach.

On the Bethlehem tour, we went to the Herodian - Herod's palace & harem - where we saw ruins, underground tunnels used during the Bar Kokhba revolts, and the place where currently archaeologists think that Herod was buried. We also saw the Shepherd's Fields in Beit Sahour, the Nativity Church - including the cave where they think that Jesus was born - in Bethlehem, and ate lunch at Afteem (Falafel King: where Bethlehem's best falafel can be found), then we went to Solomon's Pools and Aida refugee camp where we heard from the Lajee (which means refugee) Center and got a tour of the camp. Afterwards some of us went to Cafe SiMa to hang out, because the cafe was set to close for the next two weeks.

On Sunday the four of us headed into Jerusalem with our adopted fifth member, Joey, to do some of the stuff we had missed the past couple of times. Unfortunately we found out that both the Dome of the Rock and the Garden Tomb closed just before we got there, so we headed out to do the Holocaust Museum instead. That was a really interesting experience. The Holocaust in itself is one of the most shocking and sickening things to learn about, and all of us walked out with heavy hearts. But to make it all the more disturbing was the similarities we noticed between the oppression of the Jews in Europe to that of the Palestinians in Israel - you could literally just replace the word "Palestinian" for "Jew" and "Israel" for "Germany" and it would be describing the conflict here: injustice, racism, etc. In the very first room there was a particularly poigniant quote: "A state is not just what it does, but also what it tolerates...."

This past week, C and K finally finished painting the railing they've been working on for the past six weeks: YAY!! L and J are also feeling their work winding down at their volunteer sites.

On Friday we all helped to paint at J & C's host family's house, L & K's taxi driver asked them to a rodeo (we, no...), and we had dinner at the Salman's (Catherine and Jessica's host family from last year).

Two weeks ago:
Our trip this weekend was to Caesarea (a port city built by Herod), Capernum (where we saw the house they think Peter and Jesus lived in), the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth and Golan Heights. It was about 110 degrees on Saturday so one of the highlights was swimming in the Sea of Galilee after going on what is called the "Jesus boat," a replica of a boat that comes from the era of Jesus, that plays a random mix of music (Black Eyed Peas and ABBA, anyone?) as we drive around the sea. In a small village outside of Nazareth, we met with this organization called House of Hope, an organization working for peace and justice. It was interesting to hear from them particularly because they are Palestinians living in Israel.

We spent the night in Nazareth where we got to see the Church of the Annunciation and Joseph's Church (built over the spot they think he lived). Then we went to the Golan Heights where we met with Golan for Development. Our tour included a lookout point on a hill filled with bunkers used by the Israelis in the 1967 war, overlooking the Israel-Lebanon border. After a delicious meal, we headed home early because our meeting in Haifa had been canceled.

Our last week:
For our cultural night we got to spend the night at Tent of Nations where we explored the area, roasted hot dogs, slept on sketchy matresses and had a great time. J visited friends in Ber Sheva. L got to make wadak dawali (grape leaves and zucchini stuffed with rice and lamb) and K & C helped eat it :)

On Sunday we went our last trip to Jericho (where we saw the ruins of the city), Qumran (where Bedouin shepherds discovered the dead sea scrolls in 1947) and the Dead Sea. Either the tourist destinations didn't live up to their expectations or our tour guide decided to give us the boring version of the story, because it was kind of a lame trip.

Monday we had our last meeting, mailed home all of our potentially pro-Palestinian belongings, and hung out for the last time with our host families, which was very sad :( On Tuesday we said goodbye to Bethlehem and headed out to Tel Aviv. It was a really nice day: we got to hang out on the beach, swim in the Mediterranean (or if you were K, get totally dominated by the waves...), eat a relaxing and delicious dinner while we watched the sunset, and hang out on the beach at night with three of our favorite people: Flora, Joey and Rob.

Wednesday morning we woke up really early, said goodbye to them, and headed to the airport. We got through security relatively easily & were very happy to finally be headed home. We got to spend a little time in London during our layover with our friend Miriam & were all very happy when it began to rain. Way too many hours later, we finally arrived in Seattle, home sweet home.

We will all miss the place, the people, the culture and the group of internationals we have all come to fall in love with. But we are very glad to be home.

The B-Team

Thursday, August 13, 2009

el fin

here's one last message from team DR... we all got home on Tuesday night and cannot believe that this part of the deputation experience is over!

in the last few weeks...
** Alicia and Lauren witnessed eye surgeries first hand... like we were literally wearing scrubs in the operating room at the clinic! a little weird, a little unsettling, but we both feel really lucky to have been able to see this. it gave us a lot of closure to actually see something happening in the clinic, after spending the majority of the summer collecting a lot of information. the clinic was hopping and it was wonderful!

** we all finished up our english classes with parties and treats... to varying degrees of success. In Los Robles, word spread quickly that Elisa and Dylan were bringing cookies, so they had to fight off the crowd of children with a bat in order to leave the village! Lauren had a rough time saying goodbye to her class in Algodon, after forming some really cool relationships with the older girls in the village (and continuing some from previous trips). She's really excited about some girls who are starting at the university in Barahona in the fall- it's great to see them pursuing their dreams! Alicia also got to know some older boys from Don Bosco, who have made their name known in their village as Christian reggaeton singers/rappers. it was amazing to see the impact that this has on their community, especially when you saw all of the younger boys singing their songs. they performed at our despedida goodbye party last week, too.

** saying goodbye to our host families was full of mixed emotions, since that experience brought so many ups and downs throughout the whole summer. we were excited to spend time living with all of the other interns at the mission house, but it was sad to say goodbye. Elisa went on a weekend vacation to Santo Domingo with her host family, which helped her to get a lot of closure as she said goodbye. her family was always busy and running around, so she loved being able to spend some solid, quality time with them and to see more about their life. Alicia's host family tried push her back in the truck when they were supposed to be dropping her off. Lauren's family cooked chili (which she introduced), bought ice cream cake, and held a dance party the night before. We all left our host families very grateful for the experience. We also enjoyed the freedom and independence of living at the mission house all together :)

** we made some goodbye tours of all the villages, and explored some waterfalls nearby before leaving barahona on saturday morning to spend a few days debriefing in Santo Domingo. while we're still figuring a lot out, here are a few things we learned...
- we learned to be content in the Lord in any situation
- we saw a lot of prayers answered, including the healing/recovery process of a burned 6-month old baby, and a young girl with chronic eye infections, and of course the cataract surgeries
-we learned to trust that God is always working, even when we can't see it or understand

God got us through a lot this summer, and our team of interns was able to get really close. it was hard to say goodbye, but we all learned a lot from eachother and are incredibly grateful for the experience. now we just need to figure out how to keep the mission going at home, and see what that looks like. Best of luck to everyone finishing up on their trips! you are in our prayers and we'll see you at home soon :)

lauren, alicia, elisa!

Too many Bibles?

We fail at posting. Yet, I guess all the teams could say that at one point or another.

A brief recap. Since our last post we have had school, a vacation, and other adventures around Bangalore.

We took another trip the Bible Society to pick up a Bible for Brian to take home. This trip prompted us to count the number of Bibles that we have just in our flat of the house. At the end we now have: Lauren: 2 full, 2 halves, Dexter: 3 full, 1 half, Brian: 3 full, Antje, 3 full, then adding the 2 full and 1 half that are here in the flat of Prem and Rita's. = 15 total. WOWZERS!

Asha Kiran isn't just a school but also a hostel for about 12 boys. Dexter and Brian wanted to spend as much time there as possible from the beginning of the trip. However, that plan failed until last week. Last week they spent one night, and they are spending the night again right now. (Whooo, girl's night in!). They play cricket with the boys, help them with their homework, play indoor games, and talk...anything further you'd have to ask the boys about...

The past two weeks of school have been really tough. We are now making sure the kids understand that we are leaving and they won't see us again after Friday. Some of them understand fully but others just wave at us and say "bye bye." Like they'll see us again Monday. There are certain kids we're each especially attached to, but we'll surely miss the entire school, it's not just a school but a family.

Friday night we took the train to Goa, which is on the Arabian Sea. It was awesome. When we first got there Saturday afternoon the first thing we did was head straight for the beach. We could see the beach from our rooms and walk right out onto a trail that with a 30 second walk we were on the beach, kicking off our shoes and running into the waves. Lauren made friends with three women who ended up just wanting to sell us jewelry, henna, and sarongs. We quickly realized what monsoon season does to the waves and headed for the pool. That evening we spent walking North along the beach, collecting shells and watching the locals fish. We met our friends again and I bought a few things while Lauren held off.
Dinner was our first expedition into the town of Colva, we ended up at this little hotel where the food was good but the service was lacking - I didn't get my food until we were standing up to leave.
On Saturday we adventured South along the beach. We started at about 10:30am. We walked for probably four hours, had lunch at a place called Funny's. Dexter had shark, which he said tasted a lot like a regular fish. Then we walked back to the hotel. At this point Lauren and I realize that our legs were scorched AND we had an hour walk back to the hotel. Lauren was already in pain about fifteen minutes into it and the sun was still fairly high in the sky. As soon as we got back to the hotel Lauren polished off the bottle of aloe we brought with us while I put more sunscreen on and jumped in the pool to cool down. The boys departed from us part of the way back to explore the main area of Colva. Once they got back we goofed off in the pool for a while then headed into town for dinner. We found a great place called Kentuckee, huge menu and the food was great.
Monday our original plan was to hire a taxi to go to another city and go to a sandal shop our guidebook told us about, but that became too expensive quickly. Plan B was to rent four scooters and drive there. BUT, three of the four of us didn't bring our driver's licenses to Goa. I thankfully had mine. We rented one scooter for the day and the others took turns exploring the back roads and villages around Colva while the two leftover played cards, read, and journaled in our favorite coffee shop (Coffee Day).
At one point Dex and I got up to 80 km/h. WHEEEEE!
Dex and I also ran out of petrol on another expedition and he pushed the scooter to the nearest general store. Apparently they rent you the scooter with little to no petrol in it.
We all had fun riding through jungles, fields, and football pitches. Trying not to get lost - and succeeding on that mission!

Other hi-lights of Goa:
Brian talking with some Christians at the general store before heading to dinner.
Finding two different puffer fish.
Brian body surfing.
Our friend the cat, who I named Sooty (he looked like he sat in a pile of soot, 101 dalmatians style).

On the train ride back Lauren and I got off to get snacks at a stop and decided to jump on the train while it was pulling away from the platform. It pulled away sooner and faster than we thought. Lauren made it perfectly fine and thought I was going to get in at the back door because I had the snacks in my arms. I decided to legitimately run for it and made it to the front door. Though Brian - who was inside the train and saw us running past the window thought I wasn't going to make it and Dex who was standing in the front door didn't think we'd make it at all. We did, safe and sound.

This is it from Team India.

We'll be home at about 5pm Seattle time on Saturday!

Love and blessings,
Antje and Team India

Monday, August 10, 2009

Team Serbia: Suffering for Jesus all over the Balkans

While many teams have been sleeping on the dirt, showering once a week and truly suffering, Team Serbia just got back from a beach vacation where we suffered for Jesus on the shores of the Adriatic Sea and spent the equivalent of a day and a half on buses.

The adventure began July 24, when we left at 11:30 p.m. to take a 9-hour night bus to Podgorica, Montenegro. We were warned that the bus trip would be awful, with winding roads through Southern Serbia, no air conditioning, multiple bathroom stops in the middle of the night, and passport checks of every single passenger at each border. We ignored the warnings and took the bus anyway. Needless to say, we are surprised we lived to tell the tale. We vowed never to take the night bus again…or so we thought. We arrived in Podgorica and took yet another bus to Niksic, Montenegro where we would be staying with Stan and Vicki, a missionary couple from Southern California. Total bus time (TBT) so far: 11 hours and counting.

We spent 3 days in Niksic, a small town in the mountains about the size of Issaquah. Stan and Vicki live in a beautiful house with many guest rooms, a small vineyard, a massive vegetable garden and Stan’s workshop where he builds violins. They used to live in Southern California, but moved to Montenegro 13 years ago when there were fewer than 20 believers in the entire country (Montenegro has a population of about 620,000 today). Today there are about 120 total believers, and 3 thriving churches in the entire country. Stan and Vicki are incredibly hopeful that their ministry will continue to bring people to Christ, but know that the road ahead is long and daunting. Vicki cooked incredible meals for us each day, some of which included salsa (we all miss Mexican food!) and peanut butter. We also got to visit with some of the young adults at the church in Niksic, and were encouraged by their optimism and strength despite the tough climate for ministry in the country.

All four of us were sad to leave Niksic and Stan and Vicki, but our next stop was the coastal town of Herceg Novi, Montenegro. We took a two-hour bus ride (TBT: 13 hours) to Herceg Novi, and were met by Eric and Susan, a missionary couple from Chicago. They have lived in Herceg Novi for 5 years, and not one person has come to the Lord since then. We learned that a lot of the difficulties involved with ministry in Montenegro are a result of peoples’ distrust and hardened hearts. Montenegro means “black mountains” and rocks litter the hillsides. Eric said that ministry in Montenegro is like moving rocks: first removing the rocks from their hearts, and then trying to plant seeds. We learned from Eric and Susan that our success on this trip is not determined by how many people meet Jesus. Instead, we might be just a link in the chain, or more water for seeds that have already been planted. We were really encouraged by our discussions with them.

While we were in Herceg Novi, we had the chance to visit the ancient city of Kotor, Montenegro (TBT: 15 hours) and Dubrovnik, Croatia (TBT: 18 hours). It’s safe to say that all four of us have fallen in love with the Adriatic Coast. Visiting Dubrovnik was definitely a highlight of the trip for our team. We spent the whole day there, walking around the fortress walls that enclose the old city, enjoying wonderful Croatian sea bass, eating ice cream multiple times, and taking a dip in the Adriatic to cool off. Dubrovnik was by far the most tourist-populated city on our journey, and we met a lot of Americans there. Despite almost missing our bus back Herceg Novi and begging a taxi driver to accept our last few cents and take us to the bus station, the day was wonderful and a great time for our team to relax and enjoy one another’s company.

The rest of the time in Montenegro was spent on the beach. Carolyn and Cassie (or Cassandra as she’s known here) are golden brown, Casey has about a million freckles, and Emily is probably giving Team Ireland a run for their money in the pale department. Our last night in Herceg Novi was spent talking to the woman whose house we were staying in. She and her family are refugees from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina who arrived in HN 17 years ago with only the clothes on their backs. They left Sarajevo 6 days before the war began in Bosnia in 1992. Their family of 5 lived in the same trailer for 10 years, surviving only on meat pie. They’ve since built a house and their children are going to university in Belgrade, but you can tell that they still struggle with a lot of pain and hurt from the war. We were all really grateful to hear a story that is not often told, as many people aren’t quick to share how the war affected them personally.

We left the next day for what we thought was a 7-hour bus ride to Sarajevo, but instead turned out to be 9 hours of hairpin turns, Turbo Folk (search for it on YouTube, then imagine listening to it for 9 hours), and body odor. Believe us, the 2 extra hours seemed like eternity (TBT: 27 hours). We arrived in Sarajevo and were brought directly to the best cevapi restaurant we’ve been to thus far. Over the next couple days we experienced the culture primarily through food and drink, which included Turkish coffee and a truly authentic Bosnian meal. Money was tight because of a miscalculation at the exchange office, but we still managed a carriage ride down a peaceful road lined with trees that led to a park filled with fountains, walking bridges, and spring water so fresh we could kneel down and drink from our hands. Oh how we suffered for Jesus! In the early evening on our last night we attended a church service and immediately following it we hopped on a bus to trek back to Belgrade. It was a night bus. Remember how we said earlier that we’d never take a night bus again? Oops. A poor life decision we will never make again.

Thirty-six hours of bus rides, 10 days, 4 different currencies and 3 passport stamps later, we were all very relieved to be back home in Belgrade. As we finish out our trip, we are all experiencing the bittersweet feelings involved with wanting to be home, but also not wanting our time here to come to an end. Please pray that our team will finish strong for our last week and a half and that we would continue to build relationships even though we are leaving. We’re all hoping that God will continue to help our friendships blossom even after we’ve left, and we trust that God will work through the distance.

Samuil’s first impression of Team Serbia based on the picture of us on our prayer card:

Emily – Looks more like a “Stacy”. We’re not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because it sounds a lot like Casey? Which sounds a lot like Cassie? Which is pretty similar to Carolyn? (i.e., “Stacy, you are talking little bit much”). Looks sassy because of arm placement in picture.
Casey – The little angel who is always happy and bubbly and doesn’t know anything.
Carolyn – Or, “Fancy Carrie”. She’s naïve: “Oh I am going to Serbia, la la la la la”
Cassandra – The quiet businesswoman who you wouldn’t expect to speak her mind, but when she does, she really means business.

Quotes, funny moments and other cultural misunderstandings…

Cassie: “I would never wish a night bus on anyone!”

Casey: “We could go to the 24 hour market!”
Cassie: “I don’t think it will be open…”

Samuilo, Director of EUS: “GIRLS! Don’t baptize my floor with your cup of water!”

Total number of wrong buses Casey and Cassie have taken: “I don’t think we can keep track of that anymore” – Cassie

In Sarajevo, Casey accidentally took the largest cup of wine for communion. She gave it to Emily, who then felt buzzed on the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy? Maybe. Funny? Very.

Jelena, Carolyn and Emily’s host and EUS staff member: “Emily, what is wrong with your hair today??” (We think she meant: What did you do differently with your hair?)

Joke from Samuilo: “Jewish custom is to put a baby between a bible and a stack of money and if it crawls to the bible it will be a preacher and if it goes towards the money it will be a banker…and if it grabs both…TV evangelist”

In Cassie and Carolyn’s English class, while playing “Would You Rather…?” a 21 year old male student asked “Would you rather me take off my shirt right now, or go to drinks with me later?”
Šmeksi (shmexsi) = a slang term used by younger Serbians to describe a macho, cocky guy

Lots of ljubav,

Stacy, Fancy Carrie, Cassandra (The Soap Star), and Casey (who really needs a nickname…)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Story time with Team Kenya

Since we have the wonderful opportunity to work with 80 children everyday, we thought we would entertain you with some magnificintly comical children stories. Our kids are constantly being unintentionally hilarious.

1. Megan's second graders were learning about how big God is. She was asked "Is God bigger than the world?" followed closey by "Is he even bigger than YOU?"

2. Mindy's kindergarteners love to share anything and everything and the most inappropriate times. Once in the middle of a lesson, Sharon raised her hand and said "Last night I shared my milk with Ruth...and then I vomited."

3. Amy was sitting next to Joseph (fourth grade) who claimed that a magician was better than a doctor. He continued to describe what magicians can do. For instance, magicians can touch your sweater, and make your sweater disappear. He can drink soda and make a handkerchief come out of his nose. Most importantly, he can appear out of thin air in the bathroom and make you bald and then wear your hair on his head.

4. Another one of our mini-missionaries, Lena, walked in on three year old Hannah in the bathroom. She proceded to roll up her sleeves, and wash the toilet paper in her own.... you know. Oh the humanity!

5. In Megan's second grade class, Victor (a child who we believe may be a distant relative of Mr. Bean) has been placed in the middle of the room away from the other children. Why? You might ask; has he hurt another child? Well, no, but his constant "polluting" (or gassiness) was hindering the learning of the rest of the class. Isolation is the only answer.

6. Catherine explained to us where babies come from. Thank goodness we finally know that babies come from your wrist, starting as a tiny ball and then travel up your arm, down your throat and to your stomach when you are married. That's why you hold hands.

7. Milk in the face. Milk in the beans. Stir the beans, stir the beans. Thanks again Hannah for the warm memories.

8. Stella peed in the gazebo and hugged Megan. Abby didn't tell Megan.

9. One night during devotions baby Peter ran into the bathroom, both hands forward pushing the door open. The door was left open. Drip, drop... drip drip drip. Uncontrollable laughter ensued.

10. Abby walked into her fourth grade class, thinking it was just another day. However, every student had a colored bat cut out taped to them, and one was dressed like batman. Explanation? The teacher gave us bats. Oh... of course.

11. Another one of our missionaries went to devotions, having just showered. Soon she noticed that one of the young girls had licked her hair. When asked why she licked the hair she said "It just smelled sooo good."

12. "I spy" is a pretty safe game to play, right? Right. Until they say "I spy something white" and you are that something white.

13. Joseph: Can I cradle you?
Megan: No. ... no.
Joseph: Do you like to cradle Aunty Abby?
Megan: No.... again, no.

14. How could you not love these kids?

15. We hunted hyrax's (we know you use wikipedia for everything anyway, look it up). We used machetes. We fought a jungle and won. Children watched like it was a movie.

Signing off: Amy Wagoner X4 (hey, it was actually part me this time...)

We Need Bigger Luggage... that we can bring home all of our favorite Turkish things. The sea, the public transportation system, the saturday market, Magnum ice cream bars, gözleme ladies, and our beautiful friends- just to name a few. We can't believe it is the beginning of our last week here- we'll be home before you know it, but I'm not sure we've soaked in all the Turkey-ness yet. Hopefully we can get it all in this week.

Since we last updated (sorry it's been so long!) we have had a lot of new fun experiences. Unfortunately, the camp still isn’t ready to open so we haven’t had the opportunity to work there at all. Our time has not been wasted though, as we have continued to fill roles with the English conversation classes, at the rehab center, and now decorating a kreş(preschool). Over the last few weeks we have been helping and running three different conversation classes, with all different ages. We have worked with teenagers, college students, and adults- reading fun stories and teaching vocabulary from them, playing games, and mostly just talking about anything and everything. This has been a wonderful way to connect with some of the local people here in Antalya, and we have built some great relationships with them. Many times after our afternoon class we would hang out and play games, eat good food, learn how to dance, make jewelry and just hang out with the younger girls- both from the church and from the English classes. We have loved seeing great progress in so many of the students- mostly in their confidence to speak English. This last week was our last with the classes, and it was sad to say goodbye to our friends.

 We had a few more weeks at the rehab center, which was just wonderful. The friends that we made there are so dear to our hearts, and we are hoping to go see them one more time before we leave. They have been closed the last two weeks for holiday, so we have really missed spending time with them. We consistently saw a lot of the same kids and it was a joy to see their faces light up when they would come do crafts with us. It was a complete blessing to watch these kids express their personalities and their talents through the simple art projects that we brought. We also made friends with a lot of the staff- especially Seval who we got to spend time with outside of the center, which was really fun and another wonderful example of the hospitality of the Turks.

 Last week we got an invitation from Verna’s friend Tanşule to come and decorate the rooms in her newly re-opened kreş. This has been such a fun project as we have complete creative freedom to as much of anything that we want. We’ve spent our days cutting out and creating all types of shapes and creatures with construction paper and lots of glitter glue. We’ve completed three rooms and look forward to doing a couple more this week before we leave.

 Over the last month we have traveled to Ephesus, Side, and Cappadocia. We went to Ephesus in two groups and had very different experiences, but all loved it. It is an incredible places full of beauty and rich history. Side is another beautiful place, only an hour and a half outside of Antalya. Here we visited more ruins located right on the beach and just enjoyed the beauty around us as the sun went down. Cappadocia was a really fun place to see. There are tons of natural rock formations because of volcanoes that have been turned into houses and hotels and caves. We took a tour and saw a huge underground city and some old churches built into the sides of a canyon. These have all been really fun trips showing us a lot of different sides of Turkey.

 We continue to have lots of laughs as we move through our days here. I think that we are all pretty much on the same page- we love this place and there is so much that we will miss, but we are also ready to come home. This last week is full of spending some last moments of quality times with friends, finishing our project at the kres and then heading to Istanbul on Thursday for a couple days of sight seeing.

 Thanks for all of the prayers, can’t wait to see you!

Friday, August 07, 2009

nos vemos, barahona

well things are wrapping up here in the DR which is pretty hard to believe.... we've said our goodbyes to our host families, the staff, the bateyes, and the city, and we're going out to enjoy the beach one more time this afternoon. tomorrow we head out for the capital, where we'll spend three days debriefing and exploring, and tuesday morning we all fly out to come home! it's been an insane journey and we'll try to conclude a little more in the near future, but for now, please pray for safe travels, elisa's stomach, and closure as we tie all our experiences together and figure out how to make sense of all this at home. happy trails, we'll see you soon!

lauren, alicia, y elisa

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tech Camp Radio Spot

Hello all!
The BBC bus came to Tech Camp today and the campers worked hard at putting together a mini radio show about their week at tech camp. Our opinions are featured. Listen up!!

Team Ireland

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Team Ireland goes to Tech Camp

We have gone from having an hour of internet access between the four of us each week (if we were lucky), to pretty much constant access at our fingertips. It is a blessing and a curse, but part of the blessing is that we finally get to update the blog on a more regular basis! We are helping at a tech camp for teenagers this week, being held in Derryvolgie Halls of Residence. Before the week started we were all a little worried about how useful we would be (since none of us are particularly tech-y, apart from Chase), and unsure of how we would feel about doing a residential camp. We are halfway through and I think we can all agree that we love it! We've had an opportunity to get in alongside the kids and learn lots of cool stuff- ranging from how to use twitter and sound systems, to creating short videos and animated movies. It has been really great to build relationships with the campers, and we have found that 13-16 year olds are great to work with because they are sarcastic and fun, but not yet annoying. Plus we all get our own rooms, which has been a huge blessing- it is nice to unpack our things and not feel like we are living out of our suitcases-- for this week anyway. It's also been really great to talk to the campers about their faith- Chase and Thoma have been leading worship each night, and it is followed by a devotion on the theme of "getting connected with God." Tyler has been in charge of waking everyone up in the mornings (even though Lindsay has to wake him up every morning), and Lindsay has been helping out in the kitchen.

We had the afternoon off today so we met up with some friends from a camp we did a few weeks ago and walked downtown to the best Christian bookstore we have ever been in. It's a beautiful day in Belfast, though we have noticed via facebook that the rumors are coming true: while all the other teams are getting thinner and tanner, we are getting fatter and paler. It is hard to believe that we only have 9 days left in this beautiful country, and while we are trying to finish strong, the closer we get to departure the more we begin to think about home.

Hopefully once our videos are done our new techie friends will show us how to upload them to the blog and you can see what we've been working on.

Team Ireland


Monday, August 03, 2009

Team Ethiopia Update

Selaaaaam from Mekele

So as usual we haven't blogged in over 2 weeks. Our time is flying by here, we have less than 2 weeks left in Ethiopia. Amber leaves this Sunday to head back home and we leave that Wednesday to begin traveling to Lallibella.

Earlier this week, one of our Canadian teammates (Reuben) returned from Egypt. We also got another teammate from England (Tim). Amber and Alyssa pretty much spent most of the time he was here picking on him and imitating his accent whenever possible.

On Monday, we went to the "Market," which was a true African experience in itself. There are souveniers, fabrics, clothes, vegetables, spices, etc. We also went to one of our favorite habasha restuarants to watch some traditional Ethiopian dancing. It was quite interesting, especially when Justin tried to get up on stage and imitate their crazy shoulder dance. We would say the highlight of the week was when we went hyena hunting after dinner one night. We have gone a few times before, but never on top of jeep. It was as close to a real safari as we could get. Unfortunately we never saw any hyenas but always wondered how high they could jump, just in case...

This past Saturday we performed in a program at the Mekele Youth Center. There was a unicyclist, mens and women's gymnastics performance, and of course our HIV/AIDS cheer and dance was the best part of the show. We used Amber's 8th grade cheer routine to "Four Minutes" by Madonna and Justin Timberlake. Its was pretty awesome.

After church this last Sunday we were invited to our friend's (Rufael) house for his gradutation party. We got there around 1:30, but apparently the program was running late. We were invited in and his sister made us some coffee and popcorn (yes they serve popcorn here with their coffee). Well an hour goes by and Rufael still isn't home.
We get a call from one of the missionaries we are working with asking us where we are. Well it turns out we are not at Rufael's house and it is not his sister who invited us in. We were actually at one of the circus girl's houses. She wasn't even expecting us, but still invited us in and fed us. Obviously there was a miscommunication, the girl spoke Tigrinia and Karen spoke Amharic. Go figure. An hour later we arrive at the right house in a slight state of embarrassment.

Later that day we decided to go see a movie, which wasn't playing due to technical difficulties. A.W.A. (Africa wins again). Instead we found a bomb ancient army tank at the monument nearby and pretended to be marines for an hour or so. Yes, this is how we do in our spare time.

Although we have had power for the last 5 days in a row now, our phone has taken on a mind of its own and decided to go dead. AWA.

And since all the other teams are apparently vacationing at the beach every other week, we decided to be adventurous and go pirate hunting in Somalia. Pray for us....

Justin - would have bought a monkey at the market yesterday if he had enough money on him. He is still currently searching for his habasha wife and is willing to pay up to 4 camels, 2 donkeys, and a monkey for her.

Amber - tells all the children she is habasha, and when they tell her, "no, you have white skin," she says, "no, see my skin is black," and they think its the funniest thing in the world.

Jason - really enjoyed going to the Castle last night and tasting "tej." He is currently working on a new website for MYC. And finally found a Wii, and thus much more adjusted and at home here

Alyssa - is still lost somewhere out in Somalia. We are still negociating her ransom....Things aren't going as well as we hoped...Apparently 200 birr doesn't mean a whole lot to Somalian pirates. Please pray for her.

Pray for our travel plans these next few weeks (Amber will be by herself for 2 days) and we will be drving for 90+ hours through Northern Africa soon. Pray that everything goes safely and smoothly.
Many of us, ironically, have the common cold (AWA) so pray for health too. Especially pray for energy and that we may finish off these last few weeks strong. As always pray for team dynamics (Amber conquered the world in Risk, as predicted Alyssa was wiped off the world, and Justin and Jason nearly annihilated one another). Some of these issues have continued outside the game. Just kidding. But seriously....

P.S. some of the above statements may or may not be true....

Saturday, August 01, 2009

India never ceases to amaze us

Well, a lot has happened since the last blog! The trip to Mysore was a huge eye opener into the heart of cultural India. We saw many ancient temples and buildings, several of which are still used today. The outsides are beautiful and ornate, but I was honestly a little shocked at what I saw inside. Nothing extreme, but I guess I was thinking “tour bus” and “sightseeing.” To walk in to see big statues and guys with incense and water was a little different, and to see people bowing down and worshipping these statues completely caught me off guard. We left and didn’t see the main idol, and didn’t go into any of the rest of the temples, but I guess I’m glad I went in and saw what I did. I realized how much these people put time and energy and much of their lives into wood and metal and stone. (Habbakuk 2:18-20) Brian had a conversation with a worker at school, asking him why he was a Hindu and stuff. He replied he didn’t really know and it was mostly just because his parents did it and it’s the culture. Hinduism is a belief system practiced by people here, but it’s more commonly a ritual, custom and tradition that the culture is immersed in.

After Mysore we went with the hostel kids to the zoo and stopped by a high ropes course called Breakthrough. At Breakthrough every physical challenge has a lesson in it, which they bring faith into if the incoming group is Christian. Very neat. The zoo was FANTASTIC and fantastically Indian, lol. There were nearly as many snake exhibits as other animals exhibits. Highlights were the humongous hippos, the pelicans swallowing each other’s heads, the white tigers, and the lion—which we saw on the mini safari. The kids were also a blast to get to spend a day with outside the school, and the boys thoroughly enjoyed spinning around at ridiculous speeds on the park playground contraptions.

We also just came back from an amazing overnight trip to Kerala. We took a train to get there, which was one of my highlights of the weekend. My teammates and I enjoyed sitting and standing between the cars and staring out at the whizzing by scenery of rural India. It was beautiful and very surreal. Still feels that way. Then we arrived at our hotel/resort, and since it is off-season for India, we nearly had the place to ourselves. After spending the night there, we woke up and went by taxi to our next destination—an authentic Kerala houseboat. You have to see pictures. The most peaceful part of the weekend by far. We got on, went to the little upper deck/area/hideout, and just sat and watched the boat head down the canal of water surrounded by trees and houses and head towards the open backwaters of Kerala. Incredible. We explored a rice field later that night when the boat docked. Dexter and I ended up accidently exploring the mud a little more than the other two, but I have to say it was worth it. Dexter was covered in disgusting black and brown mud up to his knees! Needless to say, we ended up washing off with a little swim in the backwaters, per instructions of the crew…well, they told us to wash off at least. After a semi-miserable, sleepless night from the heat and bugs, all of us enjoyed a peaceful morning return to the hotel. We headed home shortly after, and enjoyed a slightly less comfortable train experience than the first, although it was still enjoyable and got us back.

Between weekend trips, working at the school has been an incredible experience. All of us have very unique experiences at the school, so I can’t speak for everyone, but I do know each of us is having a great time there. I am enjoying my classroom a TON and will miss it SO much. I’ve seen development in the kids over the two months, which is incredible to witness. In the classroom I feel I can be a support and extra hand to the teachers, as well as just love the kids and be there to support them—trying to speak encouragement to them beyond the schoolwork (although often it’s just trying to manage the kids and some of their terrible behavior). Some of the best moments with the kids I’ve had, however, have been on the playground, away from the classroom. One of the kids with the worst behaviors has grown attached to me and it will be so hard to leave him, as well as all the others, too.

Thanks for all the prayers and encouragements and support. God has yet to fail me this trip. He has been good to me and all of us in health, safety, and looking after us in the little things. It is great to witness the Lord provide for each other as teammates. You can be praying for health as we finish the trip, safety in our trips to Goa and Chennai, for the kids in my classroom and their needs both emotionally and spiritually and situations in their homes, for the provision of the right teachers at Asha Kiran (the school), and for God to reign in these last two weeks—starting with my life, and then overflowing into everything else.

Miss you and love all of you back home and around the world, Lauren and team India.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Team Ireland heads South

Since we've spent pretty much the past 5 weeks in Northern Ireland (other than the first two weeks, where we were farther north, yet still in the Republic- good luck figuring that one out), we decided to head to the South for our second holiday. We spent the first two days in Dublin, where we saw U2 and the book of Kells at Trinity College. Then we headed even farther south, to Lindsay's favorite place in the world- Dingle! It only took 10 hours by bus. Too bad someone told us it was 3. It's been a lot of fun exploring the small coastal town, enjoying some pub grub, and getting some much needed rest. Today Thoma went horsebackriding, Chase spent a lazy afternoon at a coffee shop reading Mere Christianity, and Tyler and Lindsay got lost on their bikes during their 30+km trek around Dingle Penninsula. Tomorrow we head back to Belfast to prepare for our week at Tech Camp!

Team Ireland

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jambo from Kenya!

Hello everyone!
1. We have safely returned from our Safari, which is actually a very significant aspect of the trip considering our daily near-death experiences. We saw 21 lions total. The first night we watched a lion crouching and hunting a herd of wildebeast, and later saw 9 lions eating one. EPIC. The next day we stalked a few lions in the grass and then watched the vultures eat the leftovers of the pregnant lion. At one point Megan was sticking her camera out her window to take a picture and only shut it when the lion was approximately 5 feet from the car. Probs a good idea on her part. We walked amongst hippos and crocs in Tanzania (don't worry we had an armed soldier with us; that didn't calm my nerves though). We also saw cheetahs, a black rhino (the rarest), countless zebras and wildebeast, ostriches, hyenas, impala, elephants, giraffes, etc. You name it, we saw it (except leopards). We slept in tents at night and one night we heard a very cat-like growl and panic ensued. I thought I would be eaten by a lion in my sleep. But the Maasai people (who were our guards) have to hunt lions with spears before reaching adulthood so my confidence in them was high. The driving is where death nearly came in countless times, but it seems to be that way no matter where you go in Kenya. This drive was 5 hours on roads that felt more like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland than a road. We almost ran over a snake but were told to wait until it passed and back up because it can spit in the car or slither up inside... sick. Overall, it was AWESOME.

2. We have started our second week of school here, teaching various subjects and have had some negative encounters with the Educational Director here. She is newer than we are and is implementing new ideas which are not sitting well with the national teachers, and in turn do not sit well with us. The expectations they have for us seem to be very high and as none of us are qualified teachers, the stress level among our house (which includes 12 mini-missionsaries like us) is rising, but we are all feeling the exact same thing so we are in it together. Our relationships with the other mini-missionaries here is awesome. We are like one big family and it's been wonderful getting to know them all.

3. We still have not gone to see Harry Potter yet. Hopefully this weekend.

4. We miss you all and love you!

Signing out,
Amy Wagoner x4

Friday, July 24, 2009

Weeks 2-5 in Ireland

Sorry it has been so long since we updated! When we do get internet time it ends up being about 15 minutes each which is barely enough to check our email. We are having an amazing time here though!

Week 2: We did a holiday bible club in Convoy (the tiny town we were staying in) in the afternoons with help from a Belfast team. We also did a teen drop in event in the pool hall under our flat at night. The first night we had about 10 kids, but after that word got out and we had between 30-40 kids coming through on Thursday and Friday. They asked if we are coming back next year, which was really encouraging. Even though it didn't feel like we were really evangalising, it was obvious that we were helping them out by giving them a place to hang out off of the streets and engaging in conversation with them. We were very blessed on the 4th of July- the family that was hosting us planned a huge barn dance/ social for us, and there were about 175 people in attendance. There was lots of dancing. And American flags. :) It was bittersweet leaving Donegal since we spent two weeks there and met lots of great people, but we were excited to move on and experience new, it was onto our holiday!

Week 3: Vacation!! We spent two nights in Downhill, at a hostel owned by a former Inn-goer. It was so beautiful- right on the ocean. We managed to pack all of the North Coast tourist attractions into one day- the rope bridge, the Giant's Causeway, PortRush, Mussedin Temple and the Downhill estate. The last we stumbled upon on our walk home. It was absolutely amazing. It was about 10:30 at night (thank goodness it stays light until at least 11 pm each night) when we found it, so we were the only ones there and looking at the beauty of God's creation definitely helped us to connect. We realized how small of a world it was when we met the two hostel employees- both from Seattle. One was best friends with Chase's brother from UPS and the other a fellow Inn-goer and classmate of Lindsay's. We invited the latter to join us for the rest of our holiday and became Team Ireland +1 or rather Team Scotland for 3 days. Edinbrough is the most beautiful city we have ever seen. We went to the castle, museums, a couple of walking tours...basically we packed as much in as we could. We also tried the traditional scottish meal of haggis, nips and tatties (sheep inards, potatoes, and squash like veggies). Though it sounds horrible, it was actually pretty decent. Holiday was great, but almost more tiring than actually running the holiday bible clubs. We had one day to recoup at the Presbyterian Residence Halls and then it was off to Ballykelly for Week 4!

Week 4: We were on our first official PCI outreach team this week. Basically that means we were living and serving with 16 other Christians (aged 17-29) from Northern Ireland. It was absolutely amazing. We didn't have the best turnout to our activities because it was the week of the 12th of July (a national holiday over here) and a lot of people were off on holiday, but we are confident that the children God wanted us to reach were present, and the low numbers allowed us lots of time to bond as a team. We ran a holiday bible club in the mornings- the theme was Joseph, and we had a complete setup with a mummy and everything. It was pretty impressive for a holiday bible club. Chase and Thoma got to participate in the drama each day and Lindsay had some fun with the bible quiz on Friday- she got her face covered in whipped cream and the kids threw cheetos at her face for points. We had outreach activities in the afternoon, which involved things such as Rounders games (which is just like baseball), pea hunts, football games (soccer), and face painting. In the evenings we had teen events, which involved SingStar and Mariokart tournaments on the Wii and the sharing of testimonies. It was really great to be with people our own age for a change, and allowed us the opportunity to build lots of great friendships. But as soon as we were starting to form a little family, the week was over and it was onto Tullycarnet!

Week 5: This week has definitely gone by the fastest of our whole trip. It was easy to come into this week with low expectations, especially after the amazing week we had in Ballykelly. But we have been blown out of the water with our week of service here. In the afternoons we have been cleaning up the area through a Streetreach, picking up rubbish, clearing public walkways, and tending to people's gardens. It has been great to finally be doing something where we can see the difference we are making. We've also had a lot of theological discussion with our team leader, which Thoma has really enjoyed. We've been doing various activities in the evenings- Monday was girl's pamper parlour and boy's football, Tuesday we had the Christian Motorcycle Association bring their bikes in, Wednesday we had crafts and activities for the kids and an inter generational tea dance for the older folk of the community. Thursday was a bbq, and we finished off the week with Tullycarnet's Got Talent on Friday. Lindsay entered with a cheerleading routine, and Tyler and Chase got to judge. Though it's a smaller and younger team this week we have still been able to form some great friendships.

Please pray that our team is able to stay focused during our last three weeks. We have another week of holiday starting tomorrow, where we will be heading to Dublin and Dingle (for the U2 concert and then a few days of rest and relaxation), followed by a week in the Presbyterian Residence Halls for a tech camp, and finally a week of outreach in Lisnabren.

Much love!
Team Ireland

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"HALLO" from Serbia!

Sorry that we have not been able to blog for a couple weeks----we have been traveling on weekends and have been running (or bussing) around Belgrade and keeping very busy during the weeks.

Two weekends ago we went to Pancevo (pronounced Panchevo), to visit EUS students over fresh-squeezed orange juice in a café that was built inside an old train. The next morning (Sunday) we woke up early and road-tripped with Samuil to the south of Serbia. We met EUS students and others from a small protestant church in Leskovac (pronounced Leskovach), where we were warmly greeted and had a great day touring their town, sharing stories, and getting to know each other. Leskocav is famous for their barbeque (AKA meat), and so we ordered lots of Cvapi, bread, and “salad”, and had a family-style lunch in the middle of the small church meeting area. Dragon (the pastor and father) brought a big honeycomb for dessert----everyone took spoons and dug in! The whole day was filled with fellowship, optimistic spirits, laughter, and encouragement on both ends.

We have completed our first session at the Bozidar Adzija, the English school where we are teaching, completing a total of 60 classes. Emily and Casey’s (teaching 7th graders) had a student cry on the last day of class! Three students in Cassie and Carolyn’s class (teaching 16 year olds- adults), invited us over to dinner at their house the other night, which was a blast as we continued to build cross-cultural friendships. It is times like these that you really realize that you can be all the way across the world, yet find way more similarities than differences in people.

Because of our busy schedule and a more sporadic summer schedule at the Roma school, we have only visited the gypsies once since our last update, and there were fewer children because the rest were on an excursion outside of Belgrade. The children LOVE “baby shark” (a classic, if you ask anyone who has been on the Dominican Republic spring break trip!).

We continue to have EUS “parties” and have had a pretty good number of students, new and old, come each week---even with many being out-of-town on summer vacations with their families. Tuesday nights are a great way to meet university students who are involved in EUS, as well as invite friends that we have met outside of EUS so that we can continue to grow in those friendships as well as introduce them to people like Samuil, Jelena, and other EUS students.

All four of us would agree that the best part of our trip thus far has been the relationships that we have started to build. Whether it is with our students at the English school, EUS university students, or people we have met through Samuil’s many “connections”, the friendships that we have built with people here have presented opportunities for positive growth and challenges---the openness of Serbians invites dynamic conversations, the sharing of honest testimonies, laughter, and funny cultural confusions. These relationships have been such a blessing to us!

Tomorrow (Thursday, at 11:30pm), we leave for Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia. We will return on August 2nd (tentatively---with Serbian timeliness, this could likely change!), and get ready to embark on our last couple weeks in Belgrade.

Some other points of interest:
1.) In Serbia, their version of “the third wheel” is “the 13th piglet” because pigs have 12 nipples for the piglets to eat from, and the 13th is left “alone”.
2.) On Friday it is expected to be 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of the abnormal rain that we had a couple weeks ago, the city was unable to spray the anti-mosquito chemicals, so we were eaten alive (Cassie had 40 mosquito bites----just on her legs). Thankfully, yesterday it was sprayed and we can already tell the difference.
3.) One of our weekly highlights are our times with Samuil, drinking coffee, having bible studies, planning our crazy weeks, eating gelato----and never without a lot of his hyper-speed energy and contagious laugh.

We will post an update upon our return of trip!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Team Ethiopia Update!

Salame from Mekele!

Sorry about not writing for the past couple of weeks. We have said since last Friday that we were going to blog and roughly about 5 days ago we started a game of Risk so that has taken priority over our lives. But have no fear Alyssa is almost dead (in the game) so we should be wrapping it up shortly.

We have been busy busy with English classes, Women's Discussion, Men's Discussion, Boys and Girls Club, Bible Studies, and running sport activities. Our team is leading an English Class every morning from 9-10 for 3rd to 5th graders. We have been meeting daily for the past 2 weeks and things are going great. We taught the kids how to say I am awesome! (Instead of I am doing fine), numbers, colors, actions, and seasons. There are 4 of us teaching but we have roughly 50 students so that is sometimes a bit challenging especially considering we don't speak Tigrinya, but we are absolutely loving it. So far in Women's Discussion we have discussed friendship, love, and sex. It takes awhile for the girls to get talking but when they do they have really interesting points and it is always fascinating to see how things such as dating work in their culture. Justin has been leading some heated Men's Discussions about identity, culture, westernization, and gender equality. Boys and Girls Club meet twice a week and it is basically a mini Sunday school lesson. We sing Father Abraham, If you are happy and you know it, go through the story of Abraham, and go over some bible verses. We have probably sung Father Abraham about 455 times, but that is okay the kids love it.

About a week and a half ago we went to Wukro and visited about 5 rock churches. Some of them were up huge mountains, some are built literally in the side of a mountain, and others have sketchy wood steps that you have to climb to reach to the top. It was a pretty incredible experience. We found priest bones...and a couple of others....just lying there no big deal. Don't worry we took pictures with them. Each church is filled with amazing and colorful murals of stories from the Bible. Mary is really big here so in each church their was always pictures magnifying her. Each church also has a special room for only "the most holy" and only the priests are allowed to enter in. You have to take off your shoes and socks before entering each church, which got a tad annoying but we decided it was worth the cultural experience. Our van also broke down in the middle of nowhere so we hung out of the side of the road and watched some wild monkeys!
It was awesome. At the first church we got to actually witness a ceremony and for some reason we were standing at the front of the church and were right next to the chanting priests and drums. In summary it was an incredible day and we got to witness a lot of church history.

Amber and Alyssa went to an Orthodox Church last Sunday with some of the local girls here. We had to wear white head scarves as is the tradition in Ethiopia. You stand the whole time while priest chant over microphones or speakers. It was truly amazing to see how far people walk to attend service here and you are standing next to 80 year old women and men who stand for about 4 hours every Sunday. We only stayed for about 2 hours because we got a little dizzy. Oh did we mention church starts around 5 in the morning?

Justin- ate goat heart and intestine. he said it was disgusting. we are very glad the rest of us were not with him. he loves playing tug of war with the kids everyday and often oversleeps his alarm.
Jason- is glad the Canadians are finally gone. Is getting a little intense while we play Risk. And loves getting Ethiopian food at our favorite restaurant Hawk Finn (Huck Finn)
Alyssa- almost ate a bug that looks like an espresso bean. Is getting wiped off the world which she is not too happy about. (Risk) And loves sketching for the little children.
Amber- rode a wild camel and lived! It was awesome. She came back from almost being dominated and is now taking over the world. (She has South America, Africa, Europe, and is working on killing Justin off North America) She loves teaching English to the little kids and playing Mango Mango with the little girls.

Our time in Mekele is flying by and we are loving every minute of it.
Thank you for all of our supporters who are praying for our team while we are here. We ask for prayers for health, we haven't gotten sick in awhile and as our time is wrapping off we want to continue to stay strong and healthy, energy, the days at the youth center are often long and draining and sometimes it is difficult to find the strength to go back, continual team unity (Risk has put some division in our team) :), and continual seeking and guidance from the Lord to serve Him and the children of Mekele.

God's Peace!

Team Ethiopia

¿cinco semanas?

hi friends!

so what´s been going on the dominican these days. most excitingly, last night there was an epic rainstorm ALL night long... which is a lot louder when you´re sleeping under tin roofs! but we all loved it. with coffee this morning, it was like a little taste of home! however, downpours tend to make working in the bateyes a little more difficult, as don bosco and los robles are pretty much out of reach unless the roads are clear and dry. where last week we were pretty much spending both mornings and afternoons in the villages all week, this week has looked quite different, and in the mornings we haven´t been able to leave at all to do physical and eye exams in the bateyes. instead, the clinic recently got a gigantic shipping of supplies, so we´ve spent some time trying to organize those into their "places" and taking inventory. today, we got a fun new task! COTN recently approved an abstinence and HIV-AIDS education program for the DR. they have used it in africa before, so we are currently running through and translating the manual into spanish, as well as trying to figure out how to make it culturally appropriate, by talking with the nurses and translators here. we´re really excited to be a part of this project, since HIV-AIDS education is something we´re all interested in! even though we won´t actually get to go out and teach any of these things, we´re happy to know that the program is available for other teams and the staff to use in the future. while AIDS isn´t a huge problem in the DR, as it is in many other countries, there is a lot of negative stigma associated with the disease. so we´re hoping that this program will try to curb that by distributing accurate information.

in other news, english classes are still going well. i think we´ve all experienced moments of great frustration as well as moments where everyone is excited about what they are learning, so that´s been great insight into the life of a teacher! we´ve really enjoyed the relationships we´re forming in the bateyes. additionally, our entire intern team has really enjoyed being able to all come together and work on updating sponsorship files in the different villages. we LOVE the days when there are older kids around to help us organize. this is a concrete way that we know we are making a difference and doing something here, which is always very comforting, since there are a lot of things we do where we don´t see the results.

this weekend all of the interns and their families have a day trip planned to one of the nearby beaches, and we´re really getting excited about the surgery team coming from the capital in a week and a half. its crazy to think that we only have one more full week working in our various ministry groups! two weeks from today we move out from our families and into the mission house, to start finishing up, debriefing, and beginning the process of saying goodbye. crazy. but in the meantime, we still have three weeks of crazy dominican life left!

we would love some prayers, if you get a chance... we´re feeling pretty physically and emotionally drained as we enter our sixth week here. pray that we will find the motivation and energy to really make the most of the rest of our experience, and that we will continue to be open to what god is teaching us, especially as we start to think about how this all applies to our life at home.

thank you and god bless!
ps sorry for the lack of pictures, none of us was technologically prepared to share any of them with you!

love to all our families and friends,

The Island Life (issue III)

Photo 1: Brit & John with our Filipina friend walking around our site in Caloocan City. There is so much garbage and mud from the monsoons piled in front of their doorsteps. So we are currently fixing their drainage problems for them!!
Photo 2: Brit & Ash trying real coconuts for the first time at a nearby market. Brit of course thought they were tasty because she is a health freak and prefers the more naturale taste as compared to the US coconut flavoring. Ash thought they sucked (tasted like sugary potatoes) and needed way, way more sugar! Photo 3: Sir Mikey with dear John Michael on his shoulders. (his name really is John Michael....weird coincidence huh?) We were babysitting some lads at Samaritana (organization that works to get prostitutes off the streets) while their mums were at Bible study. The little bugger adored Mikey and kept ordering him around in Tagalog which was real successful. It should be noted that John Michael bit the last sitter and luckily he liked Mikey enough not to give him human rabies! Photo 4: Brit & Mikey riding robotic stuffed animals. We had an unsuccessful racing session however the locals seemed to love filming our adventure; check us out on youtube! Photo 5: This is a jeepney, they are equivalent to taxi cabs back home. And yes, there are usually this pimped out. Common names for these beauts are: Baby, Amazing Grace, The Computer, etc. Owners like to have baby Disney characters, American Eagles, and Godly words painted all over the sides of them. They cost about 2 US pennies and we rebeled and went on them even though the tour books said they were "dangerous." Photo 6: This is our Filipina housemate/pal Dior. We finally got out of Metro Manila on Monday and went volcano hiking!! We took some crazy boats out to this little island that had more horses (which all looked like they where half-dead) than humans. The view was absolutely b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! The volcano is still active, note the steam in the photo! At one point their were 4 different nationalities on top of the volcano. (American, Filipino, German, Austrian) There is a lake inside the middle which has quite an upbudent amount of fish inside. It was a glorious day and definitely were awstruck by God's endless creations.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Team Bethlehem: Update #4

Team Bethlehem would like to offer a profound, collective apology for taking so long to update the World Deputation blog. We assure you, however, that this lateness is due almost entirely to our preoccupation with many adventures.
In last trip of Session 2 we went to Jenin and Tulkarm. In Tulkarm we talked to the Palestinian Authority (PA) governor. Initially we were excited but the whole thing was basically a press conference, and none of us felt like he was honest with his answers to our questions. It was all very political. In Tulkarm we also saw how the economy of a city can be effected by the wall. A once bustling city next to Tulkarm had been decimated once the wall was put up in the middle of it. Jenin was famous for suicide bombers and heavy resistance to Israel during the Second Intifada. It was the site of one of the bloodiest and longest lasting battles during the struggle. Many Israelis and Palestinians lost their lives. We heard horrific stories of kids staying next to their dead parents for days. Jenin was interesting because it gave us a different perspective to the Second Intifada was all very real.

One significant happening that has occurred here during the past couple weeks is the change in the PSE group from Session 2 to Session 3. We said goodbye to around 10 people that we spent our first month with as they prepared to return to their homes around the world (Hawaii, Chile, Great Britain, Washington, D.C, etc) and we've started incorporating about 10 new individuals into our group. To commemorate the end of Session 2, we had a huge hefla (party) which most of our host families attended, along with PSE participants, HLT staff, and representatives from our volunteer organizations. the evening included a number of speakers, one of the msot powerful being a Muslim woman whose family is having their house rebuilt by HLT after having it torn down by the Israeli government twice already. In addition, a number of PSEers, including L, performed 'dabkeh' (traditional Palestinian dance), despite their fears of completely desecrating Palestinian culture with their performance. It was tough saying goodbye to the first group since we've experienced and processed a lot of this place with them, but we're looking forward to getting to know the newcomers.
This last Wednesday through Saturday, during a break between PSE sessions, the four of us travelled with 2 other members of our program (Joey and Alex) to Eilat and En Gedi. C was particularly grateful to get out of Bethlehem for a while, since the entire female population of this town and its surrounding villages has discovered that he is an exact look-a-like of Haliil, the male lead of a very popular Turkish soap opera that people watch here called "Mirna and Haliil" (we think it has something to do with C's fledgling beard look, though the same look on Johnny gets people around here mistaking him for a member of Hamas). Eilat is beach town located at the tip of the Red Sea by both Egypt and Jordan and feels a lot like Hawaii (minus the humidity, plus 10 degrees of dry, desert heat). During the couple of days we were there, we laid on the beach, snorkelled around the Red Sea's coral reef, and enjoyed Eilat's vibrant night life. We also got our fill of American movies (Transformers 2 and Harry Potter) at Eilat's theatre, though we were a bit put off by the intermissions that came halfway through both films. Ironically, half of Transformers 2 was set right between Egypt and Jordan, at the tip fo the Red Sea (sound familiar?), though in our time there we saw neither Megan Fox (much to Johnny's chagrine) nor Shia LeBeouf saving the world from the Deceptacons. Bummer.

On Friday, we headed to En Gedi where we stayed in a youth hostel overlooking the Dead Sea. After a float in the saltiest water on earth (which was quite possibly the moment in time that the boys complained about their chafing woes the most on our trip so far), several of of us covered oruselves witht he mineral-rich mud found on the shore. The next day, we hiked En Gedi, which has been the most refreshing excursion on our trip thus far. All the way up the dry, red hillside we were able to jump into 3 or 4 freshwater springs with waterfalls, which made for excellent swimming.
One sobering element of our mini-vacation, however, is the fact that our host families cannot travel to the places we visited without the documented permission of the Israeli government. In fact, our Palestinian host families are not allowed to go to Eilat under any circum stances. We're all dealing with the fact that we can be here for onen month and travel easily to these beautiful places, but our Palestinian friends who have spent their lives here cannot. Just one of the many ways we are witnessing manifestations of this unjust reality.

In addition to our trip to Eilat and En Gedi, we've taken 2 trips to Jerusalem with the entire PSE program to see religious sights and meet with Israeli groups that are combatting injustice against the Palestinians. We went to the Dome of the Rock, though because we aren't Muslims, we couldn't enter the mosque building itself. We also walked the Via Dolorosa (the path jesus took to the cross) and toured the various holy sites on the Mount of Olives (where Jesus wept for Jerusalem, the garden of Gethsemane, Mary's tomb). In addition, we met with Rabbis for Human Rights and the Israeli Coalition Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) to learn more about what Israeli groups ar doing to combat the human rights abuses that Palestinians are experiencing at the hands of the Israeli government. It was encouraging to meet with Israelis that are responding to these human rights violations and it gave us hope to witness with our own eyes the ways that members of Israeli society are committed to changing the situation of the Palestinian people.
All of us are having trouble believing that we have a mere 3 weeks left in this beautiful and overwhelming place. We are continually learning what it means to surrender our anger, despair, and confusion regarding this situation to God, trusting that His heart is infinitely more broken by what is happening here than our hearts are. Pray that we'd have the energy and continued courage to take advantage of the remaining opportunities God gives us to invest in and receive from the relationships we've established with our Palestinian brothers and sisters here.


Team Bethlehem

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pics From Team Kenya (A.K.A. Yes! The downloading finally worked!)

The Africa we always dreamed of...

Kibera, One of the largest slums in the world

Abby with Glen and David

Brian, Moses, Kevin, and Hilary carry laundry

Michelle, Margaret, Mindy, and Stephany

Baby Peter

The Latest from Team Kenya!!!

At the top of Mt. Longonot :)

1. We're about to start week 3 here. The last two weeks have included putting on a sort of camp/VBS type experience, and Monday the kids start up school again. Consequently, we will become teachers in a matter of days. We are really learning to rely on God in this area; none of us are qualified or prepared to be teaching these brilliant minds. There is a mutual feeling of not being equipped to do this work, however we are fully confident that God will give us the confidence and the wisdom to conduct a science or geography or Bible class according to Christian curriculum. PLEASE be praying for us in the coming weeks. We will be doing these same classes up through the end of our time here.

2. Friday night concluded our GAMES week, and ended with a barbeque that we put on for all 81 children, the mamas, and the staff here. We skewered raw meat for 3 hours. I now have clothes ruined by raw meat splatter... delish. The kids had never had anything quite like barbequed meat but enjoyed it. The cottages each performed a song for the group. They also made smores. Sidenote: Kenyan marshmallows=not very marshmallowey... odd things...

3. Today we were able to experience a little slice of what heaven will look like. We visited a Kenyan tea farm owned by a British woman. She gave us a tour of her old house and of the property. We were also served their finest quality of tea and a delicious 3 course meal. This was a part of Kenya that none of us had even dreamed existed. It was rolling green hills and flower gardens. Unbelievable.

4. Next weekend, Thursday through Saturday, is our Masai Mara Safari. Please also pray for safety among the wildlife and also for some great moments experiencing God's creation.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

¡Ay Mi Madre!

Since we last updated we have been on a wonderfully relaxing retreat. We have realized how much we take for granted after experiencing two nights with air conditioning and hot showers (without buckets) at Ponte Vedra. We had the opportunity to sit on the rocky beaches of the Caribbean in solitude, finally being able to refoucus our minds and process our experiences. This time away from our host families provided us with the space we needed to actually think... and grow as a team. Don´t get us wrong, we love our hospitable host familes, though we have found that they love us so much they never want to leave us alone! Balancing our family life and our work life has been a great challenge that will prepare us for our futures (we thought you parents would appreciate that insight!) but, really both expereiences are very dense and make for long days. The Domincan coffee has been helping greatly though! (If you are lucky we may even bring some home)
For the last day of our retreat we took a road trip to the border of Haiti, it was very surreal to imagine that life in the Batays is better than life across that fence! The end result of the road trip lead us to one of the most breathtaking beaches on the Southern Coast of the DR...Bahia de las Aguilas. We spent the day snorkling and eating fried chicken at a private beach only accesible by a row boat that we packed 17 people into. We have come to appreciate God´s beautiful creation in a very personal way here.
We are back at work in the batays. We have been partnering with a local eye doctor, performing eye exams and extending the opportunity to those who need various corrective eye surgury and or glasses. We have learned that honey eye drops are probably not a good reccomendation. Though this may sound light hearted, it was a disheartening reality we wittnesed while treating an older almost blind man who had been using that remedy. When we are not working with the Doctor we are performing door to door health exams for sponsored children in the batays. To be invited into the houses of so many has been very eye-opening to the living and health conditions these kids face.
All in all we are healthy and have discovered how much we need to depend on God to keep us alert and give us strength and patience. We can not believe that we are half way done! Pray for energy for us in the last few weeks that lie ahead of us. Also, pray that the Lord keeps teaching us new lessons that we can bring back to the states to share with you all. We love and miss you all very much. Dios Les Bendiga! ps look how far our spanish skills have come! Until then ..

Team Ireland is in fact still alive!

Hello all!

Sorry we haven't had time to update! We still don't actually have time, but we wanted to make sure everyone knew we are still alive and kicking, serving God!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Team India (I couldn't think of a good title)

Attempt 2. The good part about my last post being deleted is that now I get to write about more stuff. First, I want to pick up where Antje left off because I feel that the couple of sentences about our meal to celebrate the 4th didn't do justice to it. I think I speak for us all when I say that food is the thing we miss most about home (just kidding,it's for sure you guys but food is second!). That's not to say that we don't enjoy the food here because we definitely do, as Rita is an amazing cook, but eating American food made us realize just how much we miss it. The girls ended up getting good 'ol fashioned cheeseburgers, while I got filet mignon (about 20oz. of filet for $8? Yes please!). Dexter decided to order a "Whopper" which we thought was the same as the other burgers but with different condiments. To say we were wrong would be an understatement. It was literally the size of his head and weighed 5 pounds. Even if that's an exaggeration, it's not much of one?the thing was HUGE. Anyway, finished the ridiculous amount of food, which was a team effort and we topped the meal off with some apple pie and a nice food-induced coma on the drive home. Great conversation, great company, and way too much food? Perfect way to spend the 4th abroad.

On Tuesday of last week Prem took us to the India Bible Society headquarters because he had a meeting to attend there. While he was in his meeting we got to look around the exhibit that they had there, which was basically a visual display of the history of the Bible's translation into different languages. It was really interesting seeing some really old versions, some as old as the 17th century. By far the best part, for me at least, was seeing a piece of the Qumran Scrolls (aka Dead Sea Scrolls). The particular piece we saw was from the book of Isaiah and dated back to the 1stor 2nd century BC. My parents should be happy to know that contrary to my previous belief, there really are things older than them out there (just kidding, love you guys). They also had some other cool novelty biblical things like the entire Bible on one page and the book of John made into an image (I can't explain it, but a picture is worth a thousand words...literally, I guess)

I wanted to take some time to write about a pretty cool opportunity that Dexter, Antje, and I got to experience. On two consecutive days last week a teacher at the school was absent and Rita asked us to fill in as substitute teachers. This particular class was the Vocational Training class, which is a class for some of the older kids where the emphasis of the curriculum is put on practical life and job skills. The first day was...let's say "rough". Antje was working on another project for the first day so it was only Dexter and me running the class. We were initially kind of hesitant to be assertive with our authoritative role. In addition, the kids' only previous perception of us was as the goofy American kids who liked to joke around and play games. This DEFINITELY did not bode well for our control of the class. At several points during the day we told the kids to do something and they simply replied "No." That was frustrating, to say the least, and made us feel like we had lost control of the class. However,by the end of the day I think we had figured out the necessary balance of being assertive yet not unapproachable. This balance went a long way the next day. The kids were much better behaved and Antje being there made it much easier to give each kid more attention. Overall, it was a very teaching (yet positive) experience.

-The Team's worst blogger (Brian)