Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Final thoughts on Ecuador

I'm sure all of you readers are wondering how the end of our trip was and what some thoughts are now that we are removed from our experience by a couple months. So I want to take the time right now and write a final, parting blog with some summaries and reflections of how I spent my summer in Ecuador. Enjoy and thank you so incredibly much for all of the support and love you have given all of the deputees! With love, Erica.

Dios le bendiga. That's “God bless you” in Spanish, and is a phrase commonly heard when you say goodbye, accompanied by a kiss on the cheek. This my friends, is a characteristic of the unique and beautiful country known as Ecuador. And is also conveniently the place where I spent 2 months of my summer as a part of the Deputation program with University Ministries.

Other useful phrases in Español, you might ask? “Está bien,” “no soy fea,” “donde está el baño,” and “me gustan empanadas, dame una, por favor.” Just in case you were wondering. [Translations: "It's okay," "i'm not ugly," "where is the bathroom?," and "i like empanadas, give me one, please!"]

Ecuador is a South American country right on the Equator line, above Peru and below Colombia. People commonly think that being on the Equator for the summer would be a.) unbelievably hot and b.) would make people incredibly tan. However, both of these things are false. At least at where we were. Our home for 58 days was a church in small mountain town at 8,000 feet by the name of Cotacachi. We wore pants and sweatshirts most of the time, and it rained pretty much every afternoon without fail. But even that couldn't detract from the amazing beauty around us. Towering green mountains, rolling fields and clear lakes abound left us all completely breathless. Pictures don't do the country justice. I guess that just means you'll have to go to Ecuador and find out for yourself!

The missionary work we did while abroad covered a wide range of things. We worked for families from the church, doing anything from childcare to house-cleaning, and from gardening to working in family-owned restaurants. Which, by the way, is where I learned how to make the aforementioned empanadas. We also taught English in a remote Black-Ecuadorian village for two weeks to people aged 8 to 21, which was challenging, but probably one of our favorite parts of the trip. Other tasks of ours included starting up the first English service at the church for American expatriates, singing worship at church, both in English and Spanish, running games and crafts at a kids camp and painting the church, inside and out.

One of the things that stuck out to me throughout my Deputation experience was an overwhelming sense of God's love pouring out from the Ecuadorian people. The church we worked with was incredibly small and didn't have enough money to always pay the pastor, and yet they would rent a bus and drive 2+ hours to a remote village to talk about Jesus to non-believers. That my friends, is one of the greatest examples of God's love that I've ever seen. Their selfless devotion to spreading the gospel and caring for others less fortunate than themselves was beyond inspiring. How many churches here have exponentially more than a tiny church in Cotacachi and yet don't do as much with what they have? That was a question that constantly was, and continues to be, on my heart. All I can say is that the souls of the people there are beautiful.

As far as personal growth goes, one thing that I was constantly facing was my own weakness and the necessity to rely on God. That said, I'm the kind of person who feels the need to take care of others and get everything done myself. But in Ecuador, everything familiar and comfortable was stripped away from me. My family, my friends, my boyfriend, the types of food I was used to, my language, and even my normal intake of oxygen [there's not really a whole lot of air up there at 8,000 plus feet, friends]. And with all of that came the realization that I can't do everything on my own. And at first, that was defeating. But soon I found myself praying to God multiple times a day for everything. Even it if it was as simple as “please get me through this day, Lord.” As time went on and challenges arose, I became more confident in the power and peace of Jesus. And even though it continues to be hard, I'm learning more and more to embrace my own weakness and turn it into reliance on the wonderful grace of God.

Another thing that struck me while I was on this trip was the idea of God as the ultimate Father. To make it simple, I don't really know what a “father” looks like. However, while I was in Ecuador, this idea of a father was just something I couldn't get away from. And it's something I'm still working through, but I had the privilege of seeing what real and good, loving fathers look like in the men of the church, particularly our pastor host. And witnessing to these very well put-together and connected families led me to thinking more about God as our heavenly father. And as simple as it is, it really hit me that God loves me and there's nothing that I can do to make him love me more or less. To him, I am perfectly done; I am lovely. And I am his daughter. And he would do anything and everything for me. And in fact, he already has: he sacrificed his true and perfect son; something that would agonize any loving father. He lost his perfect child so that I could have the chance to live and love, even with all of my flaws and mistakes. And that is something that will continue to mystify and amaze me.

Overall, Deputation was a challenging but life-altering experience. I met people who are a second family to me now, I tried new foods [although regrettably not the specialty dish of guinea pig], I learned new skills, worked on a new language, and discovered new things about myself and about God. And I got to zipline upside-down through the jungle, snorkel, paraglide off a cliff and boat down a river in the Amazon.

I'd say that's a pretty good summer, wouldn't you?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sierra Leone travel

As you heard from Victor, the Sierra Leone team is having some traveling challenges. Their initial flight out of Freetown was cancelled and they are still awaiting the next available flight. We will know more later tonight. In the interim, please join me in prayer for travel safety and energy as they continue a marathon of airport time.

It's About Time...

For a lot of things actually.
It’s time for our first (but not final) dep blog, time for us to say goodbye to Sierra Leone and our kids at the Banta Home, and also time for us to book it out of the Lungi Freetown Airport where we have at press time, been for the past 25 hours.
It’s crazy to us to try and explain our experience of the past two months here, so most of our stories and little details you will have to hear upon our arrival! But just so you have an idea of what us crazy college kids have been up to, here’s an overview:
• Living in the Banta Mohkelleh Bush in Upper Banta with 100 orphaned and destitute children who have been the loves of our lives as well as our neighbors the past eight weeks.
• Working with nine other teammates (6 Americans, 2 Sierra Leoneans, and 1 Irish man) through the Children of the Nations (COTN) program there.
• Working with COTN’s Village Partnership Program (VPP) in five nearby villages learning new skills such as grinding up cassava leaves, farming, carrying water on our heads, learning Mende (the local language) and Krio (the national language besides English), leading weekly bible studies, attending church, and loving our village kiddos. Victor was in Ngolala (Guah-la), Jessica was in Wondie (woon-day), and Emma was in Mogborie (Mog-bore-eeeee). We all had a partner and a national who came with us four times a week walking through the jungle to our village community. It was one of the best parts of the whole program.
• Spent two weeks running Bible/Community/Summer/Feeding Opportunity/Everything camps! Children’s camp was a huge success although very tiring! All 12 of us interns were split into four houses (red, green, blue, yellow) and were responsible for a total of 269 pekins! (for those of you who aren’t fluent in krio that means children..) Lots and lots of beautiful and hyper kids means lots of fun, not much sleep, planning on the fly, and a great week. The next week was youth camp for kids who were 12 years and older and was run by a team from Florida. We were all so thankful-we were exhausted and they did a great job!
• In the beginning of our trip, the first four weeks we spent afternoons tutoring the kids who needed the most help with English. Very frustrating, but also a great chance to learn the lessons of patience, and to learn about the kids. The school system here is crazy, nothing at all like we’ve grown up with and so we learned to value our education we’ve received and Victor and Emma are inspired to work harder this coming year! We spent a week teaching summer school before the teacher team from Colorado arrived, and that was quite the experience. Stories to come, and make sure to ask Jess her favorite memory verse from that week...(1st Sam. 18:1. But you need to hear her say it)
• We attempted to do personal ministries on a regular basis, but that was not always achievable (see below). When we did get to work in our assigned tasks, Victor was being a computer whiz as usual, and was teaching kids how to type, and how to handle computer class without a reliable electricity source. Jess and Emma were paired up in the clinic where they mostly observed the patients that came in, watched malaria medicine be overprescribed, watched placebo shots be given to every patient, and learned Mende songs! Yes, clinic time was pretty much like a medical day care. It was great!
• We experienced “Africa Time”! Aka, the time you give is not the time things start. For example, we were fortunate enough to experience the nursery and primary school graduations our second week in Banta. The ceremony technically began at 10:45 am and was printed on the “fliers” but when we eventually meandered up the hill to the school as we did each day (which is a half mile walk one way thank you very much) at 12 pm that the ceremony hadn’t started yet and began approximately at 12:45 pm, 2 hours later... So if we are late to coffee dates with you all when we are back, we’re sorry, we’re adjusting from Africa time to Seattle time.
• Finally, one of the best experience we had was a home take over. Each house (and there are 10 of them including the intern house) has an Aunty who looks over the 12-13 kids in each house. The Aunties needed a wee break as Mark would say, and so one Thursday through Sunday, we interns were partnered up and looked after houses. Our duties included getting the kids (but mostly ourselves up) for morning devotions at 6 am, handling morning chores of washing and eating, having meals prepared for the kids, getting them to school/church dressed (oh my goodness, crazier than you would think), cleaning the whole house top to bottom, having resting time, and playing with them. Way harder than we thought. Jess was with House 1 girls (sweetest things you’ll ever say good night to), Emma was with House 5 boys (Ahhh loves of her life), and Victor with House 6 boys (Uncle! Grease!). A fun couple of days but we were so tired by the end we felt like we needed a retreat!

So that is a quick summary of our scheduled adventures... stay tuned for the unscheduled ones! God willing, we will be in Heathrow airport soon and be able to post again! Much love to you all!!! And keep the prayers coming, this travel thing has been a nightmare...
Uncle Teekeh (Victor)
Aunty Nyadavo (Jessica)
Aunty Seinya (Emma)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pray for travel safety

Hey Everyone,

Join me in prayer for each of the Deputation teams as they begin their travel home.

Team Bethlehem arrives Wednesday, August 11 at 4:45pm
Team Ecuador arrives Wednesday, August 11 at 7:56pm
Team Haiti arrives Wednesday, August 11 at 11:59pm
Team Dominican Republic arrives Thursday, August 12 at 12:04am
Team Kenya arrives Thursday, August 12 at 3:09pm
Team Sierra Leone arrives Thursday, August 12 at 8:43pm
Team India arrives Sunday, August 15 at 4:51pm

Sunday, August 08, 2010

We're off like a heard of turtles-Team Haiti

Our last blog post in Haite...dun dun!

This week started with three days of solid surveying. We continued our work along Canal Elmay, and each day got a little more difficult than the last. The areas along the canal we had to survey were overgrown with wasp-infested brush, and surrounded by endless banana gardens and swamps. We worked really long days and made a good amount of progress, but by Wednesday we had only gone about 1800 meters (a little over a mile). It took us a total of 5 days to get that far, but in Haiti it's about what you get done, not how fast you get done. Needless to say, we were all exhausted every day after being out in the sun all day. We're very glad to be done with surveying.

On Thursday, we spend the whole day doing data entry on AutoCAD with all the information from our survey. We then created a topographical map from the data we took, and Jeff helped with a report of our findings. On Friday, the report writing continued. Bruce wanted us to give presentations of our various projects, so people were scrambling to put their presentations together. In the morning, Adam and I (Jordan) went with Bruce to measure a reservoir and deliver some construction materials to the school in Foison. By the way, the school in Foison is being funded by the Sunday school children from UPC, and it is looking good so far. On Friday afternoon, a few of us continued working on the metal gate we're welding. This project has provided us with some great experience with welding. Then Friday night, we did presentations for Bruce and Deb.

And that brings us to Saturday...What a great day! We made our fourth and final trip to the beach. The water was perfectly calm and clear so we could see a really long ways underwater. We spend most of the time swimming, diving and exploring the reefs. We saw lots of bright tropical fish, coral, anemones, and schools of cuttlefish (they look like little squid). We also found a few lobsters hiding under rocks. Bruce said if we caught one, we could eat it for dinner...so we spent a good amount of time trying to pry them out from their caves, but had no success. Other than that, we just soaked up the sun (too much sun for some of us) one last time before we leave.

Today we went to church in Moulin, which is a small town in the mountains Southwest of us. Pastor Bernex, who lives next door to us and works around the shop, is the pastor in Moulin. The whole congregation was very excited to have us visit their church. They thanked us for coming, and Pastor Bernex prayed for us. It was really cool to see how appreciative they were of us coming to Haiti to serve God with them, and they spent a lot of time praying for our trip, our work that we've been doing, and our families and churches back home. We also sang "Come Thou Fount" for them, which they recognized in Creole, and we did "Magnify the Lord" again and they loved it. It was just an all around great church experience. This afternoon we had our final lunch prepared by Madam Chrisbon. Once again, it was delicious.

In Haiti, we have this saying: "We're leaving like a herd of turtles" because it literally takes us at least a half an hour to leave the shop once we get ready to go. Hopefully that's not the case Wednesday morning...because WE'RE COMING HOME! We're all definitely ready to be home. It has been a wonderful, challenging, rewarding experience here, and we've all built relationships and done work that we'll never forget. But it's time for us to be home with our families and friends...and Adam might actually be going crazy. So hopefully there's not a storm, because he might try to swim home. We love you all, pray for our safe travels and we'll see you soon. Team Haiti out.

God's Grace,


The Sea of Death

[As originally posted by Alexander Halaszyn on Infinite God: Christ Without Bounds]
[Is it totally tool-ish of me to always make ^ this note ^ on my Dep blog posts? Guess it's a little late to be questioning my behavior at this point! Oh well, whatever]

Weirdest water experience of my life. Seriously.

The other day on Saturday, we had the opportunity as a group to go to the Dead Sea, not only the lowest point on earth but also one of the saltiest. There's actually a legend I was told that attempts to explain this saltiness, that it is the result of when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (It's actually due to all the run-off from the surrounding hills and from beneath where the lake now stands, from what I understand). This increased saltiness has some rather intriguing side effects. Buoyancy, is as you know, the action of stuff floating while submersed (at least partially) in the water. Or as Wikipedia puts it, "... is an upward acting force, caused by fluid pressure, that opposes an object's weight." In a way, it's very similar to Hot Air balloons floating through the air (but not "at the surface" of the air) because the hot air is less dense... there's more stuff in the air beneath the balloon than within or above the balloon.

In the Dead Sea, there is much much more in the water beneath you than you'd ever expect there to be in water: all that salt! As you're walking out into the water, past the rocks and that pricelessly cosmetic mud-slime beneath your feet, it becomes surprisingly difficult to walk, because you find that your legs no longer want to go down. Just as this realization and it's implications begin to hit, there's no longer anything beneath you, legs and body floating while completely upright. A subtle and nearly imperceptible muscle movement later, knees shoot up in front of you, back goes flat, floating on the surface. Buoyant beyond all reason. Inconceivable.

The mud was also pretty sweet, I guess it's the thing to do: cover one's self ridiculously with the nasty stuff and bake in the 107 degrees of sun for a while, rinse, and enjoy baby's-bottom-smooth skin. (I have to say, my Inner Child was quite pleased with this experience!) Upon the writing of this blog entry, my skin still feels like a good thing to be covering my body, more so than usual that is. Don't take me wrong, I'm generally pretty happy to have skin. But these days, when you're only showering once every 4 or so days... it can be nice to throw off the old man in a manor of speaking. ;)

Looking forward to daily showers when I get home... and church. I'll post more on that later, suffice it to say, I finally had the chance to go this morning. The Church of the Nativity. Pretty sweet.

Also, I would have pics from this adventure yesterday, but my camera is being all wonky, doesn't want to charge anymore. So much for pawn-shop treasures.

For now, Mas Salaama! See you all soon! (Such a very strange fact...)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Trains, Planes, and...Matatus

Well seeing how I have not written on the blog I thought it was due time for me to put something up. It also helped that we only have a week left!

So from where we left off, we all are still copying, grading those wonderful papers, helping the kids learn that 6 + 4 does not equal 11, and doing anything else that the Rafiki teachers can think of. Personally, I have had a lot of fun helping the teachers with the kids. It’s been such a life changing experience. I have to say some of the work can truly be boring at times but in the end we keep each other afloat with a laugh here and there or just hanging out. We also tutor some of the kids. Barclay tutors a great bunch of kids whose names are Moses, Morris, Steven, and Amos. He really helps them out and has done some pretty creative things to get their mind around math and reading. Megan works with two kids whose names are Stephen and then helps a cute girl named Grace on her reading skills. Drea is busy working on preparing lesson plans for preschool and kindergarten. She really has a knack for it. The boys that I am working with are Elijah who is deaf and Amos who is severely handicapped. Then I work with Victor and Hillary who struggle with math. I truly now know why god had me take ASL (American Sign Language). I work with Elijah on getting comfortable with more signs to Mathematics and then doing oral (he has enough hearing to the point where it’s helpful for him to vocalize thoughts). With Amos I work on building confidence in him, or at least that’s how I see it. He works on puzzles and really has made big strides on how much time it takes him to finish. It’s so hard for us to work with these boys and girls, knowing that there lives are going to be so difficult, but it is also so reassuring knowing that God will be with them every step of the way. Last weekend we took a matatu to Nairobi for some fun. It’s the local transportation, and man, was it roomy! From my head pushing on the ceiling to my knees cutting into the seat in front of me this made for a thoroughly enjoyable time. The feeling of getting off on our own (besides the fact that we had our local friend named Peter, who is awesome and works maintenance at Rafiki, with us) was a blast in a new place. We have a stone wall around us, so for us every time we get a weekend break it’s such a blessing. Not to say we haven’t absolutely loved our time with Rafiki, but it is nice to get out of the compound and experience the real Kenya. Nairobi was so worth it, getting to walk those streets and seeing what a local gets to see every day. We all had a great time with one another and in the end it will definitely be something that we all remember, and I hope that it will be for the others as well.

Sincerely the Kenya team,

Eric Kopicky

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Team India

The beginning of the blog post is from the first two weeks in July.

On Monday afternoon we rested, the all day trip to Mysore left us very tired. On Tuesday we decided it would be nice to make cookies for our host family. We decided to make chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies. As we began making the cookies we realized there wasn’t enough sugar on the shelf for the cookies. Our host mother, Rita gave us a bag of what appeared to be very large sugar crystals. Katie stirred it into the pan with the other ingredients. After several minutes of stirring the cookies weren’t turning into the delectable consistency Katie had made before, instead the sugar crystals were retaining the chocolate liquid and turning rock hard. Katie chose to taste the delicious concoction and ended up with a mouthful of rock salt. Katie grabbed the bag of “sugar” and saw in tiny letters on the label on the back of the bag it said “salt.” We remade the cookies with real sugar and they were quite tasty. On Wednesday we went to Mahatma Ghandi Road (There is one in each city in India) to buy sandals to wear with our Saris. On Thursday we hung out with Aneesha, a teacher in the prevocational class at Asha Kiran. She helped us drape our first Saris (quite complicated!). In the evening the accountant at the school, Subatra, came over and did henna on our left hands. On Friday we went to our first Indian Wedding. It was a Christian service and did not last three days like typical Hindu weddings. The service was similar to Christian weddings in the States. Several hundred people attended the wedding and about 2,000 attended the reception. There was so much food at the wedding! The non-veg line was endless. We decided to join the vegetarian queue, where there wasn’t a long line. A few differences between receptions in the States and in India—There isn’t any dancing. There was a live band which sung several American and Christian songs. The couple greets an endless line of well-wishers on an elaborately decorated stage, with a sign above them that said “Shirley weds Charles.” Our host family said they greeted guests for six hours at their wedding. Wedding cake is eaten by the family of the married couple, not by their guests.

Indian Culture: We have learned a lot about the Indian culture this summer. The following are our findings. We have been pleasantly surprised with the hospitality we have received here. Multiple teachers have asked us to tea and dinner in their homes. We have met several of the locals wherever we go, they are always so welcoming and interested in where we are from and what we are doing in Bangalore. Everyone always asks how we like the spicy Indian food and are pleased to see us wearing Saris and Indian clothes. We can see the delight in the locals as we adopt Indian dress, culture, and customs like making Indian chai tea and the Indian head wobble. Every Sunday at church women comment on our ability to walk in Saris, they are surprised to see white women walking gracefully in them. People aren’t as verbal, or direct in conversation as those in the States. When we have communicated in a direct manner some people are a bit taken aback. Additionally, a month ago we realized how much Americans are afraid of awkward silences in conversations, perhaps it goes hand –in-hand with our chattiness. When our host family has guests over there are always awkward silences intermixed in conversations and a conversation ends after about a minute of silence. Americans are constantly aware of preventing such silences, we have an array of conversation topics in mind and always leave a conversation before an awkward silence occurs. Here awkward silences aren’t “awkward” Indians don’t worry about awkwardness. Life is slower paced and more relaxing here. Afternoon naps are common. Our host family was shocked at the typical work weeks of the careers we are pursuing (business and law). Teachers at Asha Kiran work 25 hours a week. We found that Americans’ emphasize building a career more. Note: we observe this as University students that are constantly confronted with thoughts and questions of what are major will be, what internships to apply for, and assessing future careers. In India there is a stronger emphasis on family (womens’ role as homemaker). Community is valued, there is a small shop down the road from our house, we have the option of paying whenever we shop there, or putting it on the tab of our host family. There is a share the wealth mentality. In the house we live in there is a person who cleans, ironing is sent out, person who waters the potted plants, and a person who cooks. This mentality implies employing friends to do the work they don’t enjoy. Most Americans value independence and self sufficiency. Here instead of having to do everything yourself, they glorify the individual talents of people and try to make use of those talents to benefit all.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers this summer. We have enjoyed our time in India and are looking forward to going home in ten days.
Much love,

Katie and Sarah

Sunday, August 01, 2010

One Moto, Two Moto, Red Moto, Blue Moto (Team Haiti)

For us this week, the return to engineering work meant a return to surveying. We spent a day surveying Canal Elmay which is near Pastor Chrisbon’s church in Poste Metier. There are some problems with this canal, and our job is to determine those problems and find solutions through surveying. This particular canal serves the farmland of nearly 500 Haitians. It will be a very big deal to get this functioning again. The part Bruce is mostly concerned with is about 5km long, which is about 3 miles. Last week we surveyed about 1km of Canal Elmay, and this week we’re going back to do more. The eventual goal of this project is make the canal again out of concrete-right now it’s just dirt.

On Saturday, we all got a lesson on welding from Bruce. Some of us have been bugging him to teach us welding the whole time we’ve been here. He finally gave in and let us get some welding experience. We played around with some scrap metal for a little while, and then we were given a job that requires us to us our new skills. Bruce wants us to make a metal gate out of rebar. So we spent most of the morning Saturday straightening the rebar to weld together to make the gate. We’ll weld it all together if we get any time this week after the surveying gets done.

Also this week, we finally got to use our awesome, stylish motorcycle helmets. There is a lot of stuff going on around the shop right now, so we opted to take moto-taxis to get around rather than having Bruce chauffer us. It’s a very interesting experience sharing a big dirt bike with a driver and another passenger for a total of 3 riders. Motorcycles have turned out to be the fastest way of getting around though. And it only costs $2.50 per ride! (100 gourds) Ok, so it’s not the cheapest way to travel, but it’s fast and we don’t have many other options.

At church today we performed two songs for the congregation with Josh playing guitar. The first was “Grace Like Rain” and the Haitians liked that one. Then, before the sermon, they always do a “wake up” song to make sure everyone is paying attention while the pastor speaks. So we got to do the “wake up” song this week. We did the children’s song “Magnify the Lord” complete with clapping, shouting and hand motions. It was a huge hit! It pretty much woke everyone up.

We have 9 days left, and we’re all ready to be home. This is our last full work week and there’s still a lot to do. We’ll do surveying, write reports, come up with designs, finish up various jobs around the shop, and we’ll be counting down the days until we get to come home and see our families and friends again. We miss you all very much and can’t wait to see you.

God’s grace,


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jambo from Kenya!

Jambo everyone! With just two weeks remaining we are wondering how the time has gone by so quickly. We are still enjoying Rafiki and learning to appreciate the many blessings that life in Africa brings. It is a simple life but has such an authentic feel to it. Tutoring, grading papers, making copies, fixing internet cables, teaching PE classes still consumes our time during the day. I (Barclay) have also been working on a detailed map of Middle Earth for the Lord of the Rings study for the 9th grade class. It took about 3 days and our team thoroughly enjoyed burning the edges of it to make it look like an old school map. The love for learning and the curiosity of a child can teach us all a little bit about what we may be missing. They never fail to stop asking questions, whether that be about taking a picture, how to do a karate chop, how to say words in spanish, how to be more dramatic when reciting a hamlet soliloquy or inquiring to what a "girl crush" might be. They are also extremely observative. I have a confession to make. I sit at a certain table, the Beersheba cottage with Mama Rose, the one night per week that dinner rolls (my favorite) are served because Mama Rose seems to be quite generous to me in the dinner roll distribution. Today I had a girl named Stephany from cottage Shalom ask me, "Uncle Barclay, why do you always sit at Beersheba when it's dinner roll night?" I could not hold in my laughter. She caught me. This gives our team all the more reason to watch what we do and be the best role models possible. It is awesome to be in the summer business of shaping kids for the rest of their lives. Our deputation team is doing awesome, and even though two weeks still remain we cringe at the thought of leaving these kids without the promise of ever knowing or seeing what amazing things they will go on to do in their lives to serve God and others.

Mingi Karama,
Barclay representing Kenya crew

PS. I am reading an amazing book about the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the reconciliation and forgiveness that has been taking place for the past 16 years. I would strongly recommend! The book is called "As We Forgive" by Catherine Claire Larson

Monday, July 26, 2010

Engineers > Soccer players -Team Haiti

The theme of this week was definitely soccer. A missions team of 13 people from the east coast arrived last week to run a soccer camp in Poste Metier. 90 kids came to camp every day, and there was a big tournament on Saturday with all the teams. We ended up putting our engineering and construction projects temporarily on hold to help with soccer camp. We had to set up the fields every day, and help the coaches run drills with the kids. Every day the kids would receive a Bible lesson from Pastor Chrisbon first thing in the morning as well as breakfast. Then they would go out and play soccer for the rest of the day. One of the best parts of our experience with soccer camp was that nine boys decided to accept Christ as their savior. During one of the morning Bible lessons Pastor Chrisbon asked if any of the kids were ready to make that choice, and nine of them stood up and said yes. Seeing how something as simple as soccer can bring people to Christ was a very powerful thing to witness.

This week was also filled with interesting travel situations. Due to the large number of people to cart around, we had to contract a tap tap to get some of us around all week. A tap tap is Haiti's preferred method of public transportation. It's basically a pick up truck that people pile luggage, produce, and livestock into and then sit where there's still space. The name tap tap come from the fact that when you want to get out you "tap tap" on the side of the truck so the driver knows to stop. During one of our tap tap rides, the was a huge rain and thunder storm. Since tap taps are open in the back, we had to cover ourselves with a tarp to get out of the rain. We call it the turtle ride. In the middle of the week, there was an even bigger storm that caused the rivers to flood. We were safe in the team house since we're on top of a hill, but the rivers rose by about 15 ft. The flooding wiped out several crops and covered the roads in a few feet of water. The next day the rivers were still high enough that they were difficult to cross by car. This meant that we had to wade across the river crossings and walk about 3 miles down muddy roads to soccer camp. It was crazy to see the destruction caused by the flooding. Luckily, the sun dried everything out by the time we had to go home. On Sunday, a bunch of us got to go to a town called Margo for church. This town is at a point high enough in the mountains that you can actually see the ocean on both sides of the northern peninsula of Haiti. The elevation at the team house is around 300ft, and the elevation of Margo is around 3000 ft so it was quite the drive to get there. There were parts of the road where we had to get our and walk because the road was too bad. It was obvious that not much traffic makes it up there. It was a beautiful place to go to church, and the mountain air did us a lot of good. This actual church building was only about halfway completed, and the congregation was tiny-only about 25 people were there, mostly children. But they welcomed us wholeheartedly and were very excited to see us. Worshiping at Margo was a very humbling experience for us.

The downside of soccer camp was that we ended up being out in the sun all day every day so most of us ended up feeling a little under the weather. By the end of the week we were all exhausted from being in the sun too long and from being bounced around in trucks. Please pray for our health and energy in the next couple weeks. Two of the other interns came down with malaria this week but have fully recovered already. Malaria is a fairly common illness in Haiti and is very treatable. So be praying for them also.

The soccer team left this morning for home, but before they left we got a chance to play them in a friendly game of soccer. They challenged us, thinking there's no way a group of engineering interns could possibly best them in their own game. But they were wrong. We beat them 8-7 in two 25min halves. The lesson learned: engineers>soccer players.

Now the interns are the only ones left in the team house. We got to take the day off to rest and recover from a very demanding week. We'll resume our engineering/construction operation tomorrow. Thanks for the prayers and support.

God's grace,


Saturday, July 24, 2010


Team Ecuador has had a full couple of weeks since our last blog post. To start with, we miss Kellie very much, but we´re comforted by the fact that she´s safe right now. It´s difficult to look back over everything we´ve done in the last two weeks and summarize, but here it goes.

To start with, we had the opportunity to travel to a remote community of Afro-Ecuadoreans to teach English. The village was called La Loma and was only accessible by a gravel road in the foothills. Getting there was an adventure; of the six times we went, we had car trouble at least half of them. We are now experts in the of art of riding in the backs of pick-up trucks. If it starts to rain, sit with your back to stay dry. (It also helps to remember your rain jacket.) When we actually arrived in La Loma, we had about 25 students from age seven or eight on up. The kids were extremely eager to learn as much as we had time to teach them. On our last day in La Loma we held a graduation for all of our students complete with English notebooks and lots of pictures. It probably took an hour and a half after the graduation to get pictures with everyone and we probably could have taken more!

This week we got to visit our families for the last time. Useful life skills we´ve acquired include peeling potatoes (with a knife, anyone can use a peeler), making empanadas, shuffling cards, and the ability to tell riddles in Spanish. It is sad that we don´t get to spend more time with them, but it has been a wonderful experience getting to share their lives for a little while. We can´t emphasize enough how wonderful the people here are. Many of them have offered us their homes should we come back to visit and we hope that we get the chance to.

At the end of this week we returned to Quito to see a little bit of the historic district. We got to see the Ecuadorean equivalent of the White House, as well as the national library and lots of churches. Construction on one church began in 1603 and it has been under construction ever since.

Our Spanish skills have improved greatly. Now we feel comfortable attending church and Bible studies entirely in Spanish. In fact, last weekend we attended a fire and life safety course in preparation for this week´s teen camp. At first it was a struggle because none of us speak Spanish, but gradually things have improved. We even met a group of college girls this weekend that were surprised to find out that most of us haven´t studied Spanish in years.

And in case you were wondering,¨chuticas¨is the Ecuadorean equivalent of the American expression ¨shoot.¨ The pastor here uses it all the time, even in sermons.

فريق بيت لحم (Team Bethlehem)

Marhaba kul wahad,
I hope everyone is doing well.  It is nice to finally find a break in the action where one can sit down and take at least a little time to write about what is going on here.  I myself have been volunteering at a children's Summer Camp so far.  Some of the options the children have are Arts & Crafts, Sports, and Singing & Dancing.  Standard fare, but incredibly fun nonetheless, especially when I am able to watch the younger children pull out some hilarious dance moves.  I cannot stress enough how much joy this has brought me.  The situation here is very difficult, but being able to see the happiness in the children that I work with day in and day out is such a blessing.  Though I must admit running around for hours in 90 degree weather isn't the least strenuous thing one could do, and for that I ask your prayers!  A great thing about these camps is that many children, especially during the Summer, have nowhere else to go.  Parks and other recreational areas that are ubiquitous back home are few and far between here.  It is much better than sitting at home or ambling through the streets because one's parents are busy with work or volunteering.  The people in this culture are very relational, and the children here are no exception.  Despite the dialogue being an Arabic-English pidgin, it's clear that having fun and spending time with one another transcends any barrier.
     It's getting late here, and as we must get up early for a trip to Hebron tomorrow I have to cut this short.  Please continue keeping us in your prayers, it is often difficult here and to have so many lifting us up is a huge blessing.  Much love, maa salaama.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kenya Update

Well...It's been awhile so there is a lot to tell.

First we are all doing well. We are enjoying the kids a lot. We have been spending as much time as we can with them as we feel our departure date is sneaking up on us.

We got the opportunity to go on safari to the Masai Mara. It was the most amazing experience. We drove out there, a 6 hour drive, but through beautiful country. We then spent three days and two nights at a camp called Olamara. It was beautiful and they took good care of us. I (Drea) got pampered as they made me gluten free meals all weekend. It was the first time I had soup in a year, so I think I ate at least five bowls. We saw so many animals. Our favorite had to be the leopard and its two cubs (which is pretty rare to see). We also got to see a zebra being eaten by a lion family. It was a good weekend and helped us to refocus our work.

The last two weeks we have been working as teacher's assistants. Most of the time we grade papers, make maps, draw posters, and we have mastered the copy machine as we spend most of our time in the copy room. I am with the Preschool and Kindergarten and so am in the classes in the morning, as they get out at 12. In the afternoon I just copy or find random work. Julie, the Kindergarten teacher has let me teach. It is fun, right now I am just teaching math and handwriting. I am beginning to appreciate the beauty of America and all we have available in the states. It has become a challenge to find some materials and I spent hours making handwriting sheets. After school we either tutor the kids or rest as the day takes a lot out of us.

We have been spending a lot of time at Julie's house, just hanging out and watching movies. I think she enjoys the company and it is good for us not to just sit around and be bored.

Home office is here this weekend from Florida. We are staying in the village with them, helping to prepare meals and watch kids when the mamas are in meetings. Megan and I were hoping to cook ugali (a Kenyan dish that I despise but Megan likes) but instead we are making sandwiches? Oh the irony...

Last weekend I went away to Kisumu, a city in western Kenya for the day on Friday. I had set up a visit with a kid my family sponsors when I found out I was coming to Kenya. I flew out very early in the morning and came back that night. It was the most amazing experience. I got to meet the child, his grandmother, and see where he has grown up. About a week before I was to leave we found out he was in a bad situation, and because of my trip that was planned we were able to find out about it and help pull him out. God works in amazing ways and His timing is perfect. Helped to give me a glimpse of possibly why I was sent here. Barclay also went away for the weekend to go with a friend to an orphanage they are starting in Kenya. It was good to be back together as a team Sunday night.

Other random notes:

- The other day Joseph said that he was going to plant Megan in the garden so that she can sprout a bunch of little Megans. He can then feed her bread, beans, and popcorn through a straw.
- Barclay is giving out a prize to the first kid who can memorize the to be or not to be speech from Hamlet.
- Kindergartners talk a lot and like to chew on pencils.
-I have shopped so much and will most likely bring home over 50 pounds of just souvenirs.
-We are pretty much pampered here, with our beds and laundry done three times a week.
- We also get fed sooo much here. I have mastered the art of secretly giving away my food to the kids when the mamas look away.

Just continue to pray as we only have three weeks left. We have decided the best thing would be to have both worlds in one- home and the kids. Too bad it cant work...The kids have a strong hold on our hearts.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Team Ecuador update

Kellie has been having some health issues over the past couple of weeks which led to her early departure from Ecuador. Kellie arrived in Seattle yesterday. Please join me in praying for her quick recovery as well as for the rest of Team Ecuador as they continue with their ministry.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Hey guys...Don't do that in your mother's car"-Bruce Robinson (Team Haiti)

This week we made a road trip 50 miles south to Gonaives. It took us about 4 hours to get there, and we had to drive another hour to get to the dam we were working on so it was a long day of traveling. About halfway through the drive we had to cross Twa Rivie, a pretty big river. Water was literally covering the hood of the Land Cruiser the whole time, but we made it across safely. Once we got to the other side, Bruce stopped, rolled down his window and said to us, "Hey guys...don't do that in your mother's car." The lesson from this experience: Buy a Toyota, they can do anything and don't break. Anyways, we went to Gonaives on Thursday this week to help a friend of Bruce's figure out some ways to improve an irrigation dam. So we made the drive and showed up with our equipment to make some observations.

Our work this week has been very random, so we'll do our best to get everything down. We finished putting up the basketball hoop now that the court is ready to go. Kids have been playing on it almost non stop since we finished it. There is another missions team coming from Virginia tomorrow to run a soccer camp for 100 Haitian kids ages 9-12 tomorrow. We've spent a lot of time cleaning and organizing the shop and team house for their arrival. Jeff and Jordan went with Bruce one day to visit a worker who has been sick for some time. We have had some car troubles so Tuesday and Wednesday we were limited to within walking distance of the shop. That just meant we went out on a hike to a nearby dam to try and rework the canal gates on it. We continued working on a foundation and Bruce and Deb's house. One more engineer arrived Tuesday afternoon from Virginia. While Part of the team was gone at the airport, the three of us spent some time having a Bible study on the roof of the team house. It was awesome to finally get some free time to hang out. During an afternoon soccer game with the kids, Jeff twisted his ankle, but he iced it and stayed off it for a few days and is now almost back to full strength. It did buy him a few rides in the front seat of the Land Cruiser though. And Friday, after almost 3 weeks of bugging Bruce about it, we finally got to go to the beach again. We had a great time playing in the surf and soaking up the sun. That's pretty much been our week. We're finally all ready for the soccer team to arrive. Looks like Amber posted some pictures for us of the cement pour last week. Enjoy.

Hope you're all doing well. God's Grace,


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sierra Leone Update

Here is an update from Emma's mom: (note, this is from Emma's perspective but both Jessica and Victor are also doing well. Let's keep praying for all of them)

I wanted to let you know that Emma called today! They are now out of the no-contact time and she is hoping to be able to call weekly. She said that they are supposed to have internet access but that hasn't proven true. I told her about Team Ecuador and she was bummed on their behalf.

In brief, they are all doing well. There are 12 of them on the team and they are nearly all from Washington. They will be going on their retreat soon at a mining camp that is comprised mainly of Irishmen, who will be gone on holiday. They are excited because they will have hot showers, flushing toilets and American food. They have been to the mining camp before to watch some of the World Cup games, including the final yesterday. She said that they have been well taken care of in the village - they have all bottled water, they have their laundry done and everyone is super nice. The food is fine although they are tired of fried foods and no vegetables. And coffee .... I think they'll be drinking coffee the entire lay over in London!

Didn't get too much information on what they are doing. Sounds like four days a week they go out in teams to other villages to do work. Emma said that after the retreat there is one week where they will be helping with a youth camp and another week when they'll be doing a youth camp. She said that they will be leaving the village early in the last week so that they have a few days in Freetown to go to the beach, shop, etc.

Health has been good. She told Jeremy that she could send really big spiders, rats and assorted bugs that like to eat you home to him, but he didn't sound too delighted with that offer.

So, those are the highlights. Just wanted you to be in the loop.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Haiti Photos

Photos of the Haiti team on the marathon concrete day:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sierra Leone Update

COTN informs us that the Sierra Leone team is at their mid-term retreat and unable to access the internet. No news is good news!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mache nan limye Bondye (marching in the light of God) Team Haiti

So, it's been a week...what could've happened in Haiti...?

First off, we forgot to say...Happy 4th of July!!! Hope y'all had awesome celebrations. Ours definitely lacked fireworks, but had plenty of fire. haha. We had a small American flag to wave patriotically, and we sang every patriotic song we could think of. Including, Bow Down to Washington. I mean, Huskies are pretty much synonymous with America right? haha By the way, we had a 73 year old Haitian man named frere Augiste wave the flag for us as we drove down incredibly bumpy roads standing in the back of the truck.

The work week was also pretty busy for us. On Tuesday, we built a tin roof over the front porch of the team house and cleaned out a storage depot. The roof looks awesome and Bruce was very impressed with our work. Wednesday was an extremely important day around the shop. There was a concrete pour going on for the roof of the new office building. Literally, everything around the shop was put on pause so that everyone could help out. They got out the diesel cement mixer, and carried the concrete in buckets up stairs and ladders to the roof of the second floor of the building. The roof is poured and leveled bucket by bucket. This processes took all day, and was very hard work. Our team was tasked with loading the mixer with sand and gravel. A few of us got to take part in the bucket line. And, of course it started raining...so we all got soaked with rain and covered in dust and concrete.

Thursday through Sunday we got to go to a Haitian run spiritual life conference called Beraca near Port-de-Paix. This conference is run by Bruce and Deb's partner church organization. It is a time where people from all over Haiti come together to meet and worship. There were 6000-7000 people in attendance, and church services were held morning and night with about 4000 people at each one. We did have a small amount of work to do-designing a new amphitheater for future conferences, but overall the conference was a great time for us to rest and hang out as a team. We played some epic games of Risk and Monopoly, got to sleep in, played basketball and hung out with kids, and got to watch the World Cup final. Congrats Spain! We had a great time learning new songs in Creole and worshiping with thousands of Haitians. It was a really cool experience for all of us.

...And now we're back home enjoying one final night of hanging out and relaxing before we get back to work tomorrow. It's been really cool to check up on how some of the other teams are doing. Ecuador, that's terrible! We totally feel for you. We'll keep you all in our prayers.

God's Grace,


Team Ecuador got robbed today. While we were in church upstairs, our room was apparently getting ransacked downstairs. The damage: 1 laptop, 3 cellphones, 1 jump drive and 3 cameras. the worst part? Literally ALL of our team pictures from this trip were on Mandi´s camera, which is one of the ones that got stolen. GINORMOUS bummer. We have the police looking into it, but we are doubtful that any of our stuff will make it back. Heck, it´s probably halfway to Colombia by now. Anyway, prayers would be greatly appreciated. And, if you´re wondering what our trip has looked like, all you´re likely gonna get is the one we posted last time... sorry folks. Wah wah wahhhhhhh. [To be continued.]

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Canadians...friends or foes? (Team Ecuador)

Ecuador is home to the mountain that is the furthest point away from the center of the Earth. Fact. Taller than mount Everest you say? That's right ladies and gentlemen, Mt. Cotopaxi is the mother of all mountains, and we got to experience it from well, about the same distance we as Seattlites experience Mt. Ranier on a day to day basis.
On the equator, water doesn't swirl clockwise or counterclockwise. Fact.
In fact, water doesn't swirl at all, it simply drains directly down the sink and we have the video to prove it.
One hour in the sun on the equator is equivalent to three hours of sun in say Southern California. Fact. And some of us have the sunburns to prove it!

Team Ecuador has had quite the adventure over the past week. First let's discuss the fact that Ecuadorians have an unhealthy and irrational fear of rain. Funny because it rains here quite often. How do we know they have a fear of rain you might be asking yourself? Well it's because on our last visit to the San Juan festival in the main square of Cotacachi, we experienced screaming and sprinting for cover do to the surprise down pour in the late afternoon. This was extremely alarming to the five of us and we originally thought we were in some sort of danger, but we were pleasantly or more appropriate maybe, weirdly surprised to find that the fear and chaos came from such a simple, harmless thing like rain.

Another highlight was our touristy visit to Quito, the giganto capital of Ecuador.
1. We got to take cable cars up the side of a mountain in order to better view just how vast the capital is. Kellie tried, but failed, to talk the rest of us into renting horses to go up the rest of the mountain for a better view. Funny because she's not even legally allowed to ride horses due to her lack of balance. We reminded her of that fact and so descended the mountain shortly after our picture needs had been satisfied.
2. Pizza Hut is severely underrated in the sates. After 20 some odd days of mostly rice, beans, and vegetables, a trip to Pizza Hut in the heart of Quito was just what the girls of Ecuador needed. Yes, our lunch in Quito was spent ordering 4 medium pizzas and a 3 liter Pepsi.
3. Next stop on the tourist journey was a giant crater from a dormant volcano where a town is now present. Sounds a lot less cool in a blog, but trust us when we say that it was pretty legit to see a town in the middle of a volcano.
4. Now a trip to Ecuador wouldn't be complete without a trip to the physical equator line right? We thought that too and so we took a little trip to the place we Ecuadorians like to call the Mitad del Mundo, which in English translates to the middle of the world. This my friends, is the equator. That thick red line on the globe? Yeah that's real and we saw it. Not only that, but we learned a lot about it. For instance, it is possible to stand an egg up on a nail on the equator. Like we previously mentioned, water does not swirl in any direction on the equator. Your shadow on the equator is much more accurate to your actual size as well. Not only that, but fun fact, your shadow disappears twice a year at the stroke of noon for approximately three minutes due to the fact that the sun is directly above you. And don't worry if you don't believe any of this, it's probably all on Wikipedia and also Mandi's camera for documentation of course.
5. To end our fantastic adventure in Quito we went to a concert. Naturally all of the music was in Spanish, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves anyway.

Speaking of music Kellie has decided to learn the Shakira World Cup song, dance. Have we mentioned that dancing is not her strong suit to begin with? Let alone an African dance. We'll keep you updated on how that goes.

In other news:
1. We now refer to Jamie as Santiago because in Spanish Santiago means James. We figured close enough and hence forth she will now be called Santiago.
2. Kellie and Mandi both share the love for farm animals. Mandi's favorite animal is a cow and she has made it a personal goal to get a picture riding one before the 8 weeks are up. Kellie has a love for pigs and claims that pigs are good pets because if someone is attacking you, your pet pig will somehow kill the attacker for you. A guard pig if you will?
3. Speaking of farm animals, Erica seems to be some sort of chicken whisperer. Sometimes it's best to not ask questions.
4. On Sunday afternoons we work with jovenes (young people) and play games with a side of bible study. We have learned that games with instructions in Spanish are rather difficult and create a lot of confusion and asking "wait, what's going on?" Eventually the instructions are interpreted more or less and the fun ensues.
5. Diet Coke and Ruffles are a necessity in team Ecuador's kitchen and we can in fact consume a whole 3 liter Diet Coke and a large bag of Ruffles in the span of just one day. These two American products are definitely worth the extremely inflated prices.
6.Phase 10, a fun card game that can be purchased for just $4 at your nearest Target, has become a nightly past time because really, what else is there to do in Cotacachi after 6 PM?
7. We have become celebrities in a small village outside of Cotacachi. After working at a day retreat with young people, singing songs for them in Spanish and English, and also playing silly games that involve throwing paper in the air, we have earned celebrity status. That's right people, we got our pictures taken with the kids and everything.
8. Potatoes are extremely hard to find when you just want good ole fashion American potato salad on the Fourth of July late on a Sunday. And who woulda thunk that we'd find it in the last tienda (small store) we'd think to look? It just proves that you just never know in Ecuador.

This week and next week we will be teaching English at a village 2 hours away called La Loma. La Loma is home to a large Afro-Ecuadorian community. It is a rural village in the desolate and gorgeous mountains. We had quite the adventure getting there however because our car engine overheated and so we were stranded for approximately 45 minutes until we hired a truck to drive us the rest of the way. We are getting very comfortable riding in the beds of trucks and by comfortable I mean lots of bumps, but lots of laughs. Our first days of teaching English have gone well. Surprisingly, the older women know a lot more English then we thought and we are looking forward to working with them for the next two weeks.

Cars breaking down is a common theme throughout our trip as well because on Monday we had an expedition to some hot springs for a little fun in the sun, and ended up overheating our car engine for I believe the fifth or sixth time since we've been here. Good thing we're not scared of exploding cars or else we'd probably never drive anywhere here. Luckily we made it to the hot springs and had a great day. Erica and Mandi had a blast dunking the boys, but got dunked in return. I am pleased to report that even though both of them probably drank far too much hot spring mineral water, neither of them ended up sick and we all went home happy and exhausted.

To conclude this week's update we are all pleased to report that Spain beat Germany in soccer today. Life is good. Stay tuned for another update from the equator next week, until then...

"Ya neva know in Ecuador..."

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Kenya Update

It just took me like 15 minutes to try and log into this blog.
Finally, success.

So the other day we went on a walk through Mwiki, which is the town that the Rafiki Orphanage is by. A few things to note:
1. Stephen, our dear friend who led us through town hates pigs. I think this is because he did not grow up reading Charlotte's Web or watching Babe. Cultural differences...
2. Kenyans love to display bloody raw animal carnage in the windows of the Butcheries.
3. Kenyan children love having their pictures taken, Kenyan mothers do not-once they see a mzungo (the word for a white person! Sidenote: one of our recent team goals is now to yell mzungo at as many white passerby's as we can find.) they go inside their home and close their door. It helps make you feel more like an awkward tourist.
4. Kenyans are really good at riding bikes piled high with crates. They're everywhere, it's impressive.

School starts next week. Weeeee! Can't wait.
I am assisting with grades 5/6
Eric is grades 3/4
Barclay(s) is grades 1/2 (There's a bank here called Barclays and Jeffery one of the men who works here repeatedly calls Barclay, Barclays)
Drea is grades pre-k and kindergarten.

We celebrated the 4th of July with some other American missionaries and we got to make apple pie-so fun! By "we" I mean me and Drea. Barclay and Eric helped barbeque chicken outside. We love re-enforcing gender roles. For example, Drea and I scrapbook or work in the library while Barclay and Eric mow the lawn.
Earlier that weekend Yeenlan arranged for us to visit two of her friends who live in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. After that we went to the giraffe center, and finally to this thing called Bomas where people preform tribal dances. The circumcision dance was the best-hands down.

Time is going by so quickly! It still feels like we just got here. Getting to know the kids and their mama's has been so fun, interesting, enlightening, rewarding...&c. There is so much to learn about them all.

Quotes from the week worth mentioning.
"Oooh you smell gooood. You smell like Chapatis!!" (note: chapatis are flat bread, painted and fried with lard.)

"Please, please during nap time I dream about you."
-Grace W.

"Please, Denise is fat, Denise get off the seesaw, please! Denise is too big!"

Also we have been making good use of Barclay's banana grams since the kids all scatter into their cottages around 7 pm. And now we are going to go catch some of the world cup at one of the Julie's (one of the long-term missionaries here).

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Bethlehem: Happy Day-After American Diplomatic Immunity Day!

[As written 7/5/2010 11:55am (+2 GMT) ]
[And as posted on Alex's other blog]

[Note: Anyone interested in seeing better quality photos or to comment on them, visit Alex's Picasa album]


An incredible weekend.

I mean, seriously. If you could measure a time by the quantity of pictures one takes, well… I think I took about 200 pics. I feel tempted to overuse the word "breathtaking" to the point that I'd basically be admitting to suffocation.

Our group from Holy Land Trust had for us a weekend-long adventure through the northern bits of Israel and Palestine, giving us our first opportunity this whole trip to really be “tourists.”

Here’s what our weekend’s itinerary looked like:

Bethlehem --> Jordan River --> Sea of Galilee (Including a boat-ride! Complete with Titanic soundtrack) --> Capernaum à Mount of the Beattitudes --> The Golan Heights --> Haifa --> Mt. Carmel --> Caesarea (Beach on the Mediterranean) --> McDonalds --> Bethlehem

Now that I’ve just written that out, aswell as cross-check with my map, the prospect of describing all these places seems like an overwhelming task! How about bullet-points and pictures? Ya’ll good with that?

Jordan River
  • Pathetically small, ever since the Israelies have been pumping out more and more water from the Galilee and creating dams and such, there really isn’t all that much to this water-way anymore. BUT, there’s this “Baptismal Location” you can visit (as we did… felt like they were – dare I say it – marketing baptism. It was honestly disgusting… get your photo while being baptized! Get your bottle of “Holy River Water!” Get your samples of holy dirt, holy oil, holy smokes! Felt like overturning some tables…) There was a place you could stick your feet in the water, and these fish would eat off your dead skin. Totally exfoliating.

Sea of Galilee

From Deputation
  • Small wonder they called it a Sea! Seriously, the most vast body of fresh water I’ve ever seen. You couldn’t even see the farthest end of it! We took a boat to the otherside, ate some horrifically overpriced fish (“Jesus Fish”… the “same fish” that Jesus ate. So I gained like, 200 Spirit Points).

  • Now, a Tourist Trap. It was pretty alright, had some sweet reconstructed ruins. A massive Aloe-Vera plant thing that seriously looked alien. Someone made a comment about it being a giant venus fly-trap. Ironic, visit the West Bank, get killed by a plant.

Mount of the Beattitudes.
  • Traditionally believed to be the location where Jesus preached His sermon on the mount [Mathew 5-7]. I actually was just reading through that passage, so to be able to put a place to the words: ridiculous. The view of the Sea from there is breathtaking. The church there is also pretty alright, lotsa nuns. More gift shops.

The Golan Heights

[multiple pictures, coming soon]
  • !!!!!!!!!!!
  • Stunning.
  • We spent the night here in a hostel, in this small town up by the border with Syria… I’ve never seen anything like it. The Mountains literally all around, a view down into Israel like nothing else… ending up playing soccer with some kids and Trey and Eric (another HLT participant)… sunset like nothing ever…
  • Me and Trey both firmly belive we’d come back to this place… it was also the only place I’d say we got to more than simply “taste” for half an hour, like most the other places listed here.
  • Most industrialized city in Israel.
  • Nuclear Power Plants --> totally sweet [photo coming soon]
  • Ba’hi Gardens O_O
  • Mount Carmel

Mount Carmel

From Deputation

From Deputation


From Deputation
  • Beach on the Meditteren
  • Were only there for 30 minutes… =(
  • Ancient Roman aquaduct right there on the water! Poor choice building on the Sand, silly Romans. Should have visited the Mount of the Beatitudes first…
  • Got my jeans pretty soaked, Trey and several others decided to strip down and jump in (Skivvies only…or, as Jenny our Brittish friend would say: Pants only)
  • Never getting time at the beach = a piece of my heart never getting satisfied. Right next to the part of my heart that never get peanut butter or bacon or mashed potatoes or tacos or milk or OJ or cerial…..

  • Our single act of patriotism. Supporting Cooperate American Supremacy. I opted for for the chicken sandwich from the 10-Sheckle Menu. Total Rip-off. Trey got a Big Mac ™ . Paid for it later.

Oh geez…. *takes big breath*

That’s a lot of stuff, there.

Infused amongst it all, and almost more importantly… I had ample time to reflect while on the bus when I wasn’t socializing.

Praying a ton, reading… and really feeling God working in me about patience and judging others… to unpack this statement completely would take more than what I’ve already said… suffice it to say, there’s some interesting characters on this trip. And my heart, being full, in some respects cannot wait to get home, or to someplace where I don’t have to be on edge. And being patient to let this time do it’s work is key… but I’m starting to miss home. The green forests. The deep blue bodies of water where-ever I turn in Seattle. The Music, oh… the music. The Friends. The Lady… it’s rough. And honestly, there are times where if I could, I’d teleport right over there from here. And then I have to tell myself:

no. This is where I need to be. If I keep looking forward, I’ll miss the significance of the right-now.

And keep telling myself.

And get to my host-home, and feel so completely the opposite of “at home”… almost the exact antithesis. To be tired regardless of how much I sleep.

It is trying to my soul, but I know it must be true: that I’ll be better for this. I’ll be stronger. I’ll have a better understanding of myself, and how stinky I can get. Of who I want to be, and who He wants me to be. Of me. For me. Through me.

Honestly, politics aside, people just need to be loved. That’s all I see here, when it comes down to it…. Everywhere. And we’re all just so stubborn and reluctant to do so…

Christ, preserve me. Uplift my spirit, encourage me and Trey. May Your peace soak us in this thoroughly dusty land…

India Week 2

O how the adventure begins! Our first full week in India has been jam-packed with school, site seeing, sampling of Indian delicacies, yoga, and much more. It’s been full of fun, yet a bit exhausting – needless to say we’re happy it’s finally Sunday, the day of rest.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first full week at the school. Everyday our morning begins at 5am when we get up to go walking with our host mother around the park across the street. After walking around 5 times (30-40minutes) we come home and get ready to go to school. Sarah and I usually make toast or cereal for breakfast along with fresh papaya and banana – the fruit here is soooo good! (we’re spoiled). We eat our breakfast on the rooftop terrace and normally read our bibles for half an hour each morning after breakfast. This has become a great new habit and one we hope to continue when we return home. At 7:25am we catch the school bus to school and take the half an hour ride through the busy and chaotic streets of Bangalore. Once at school, I go to assembly with the younger kids and Sarah goes with the older kids. As assembly with the younger kids we usually practice spelling and saying the day, week, and month, greet eachother, and either sing nursery songs, or do a small activity (such as passing a ball around or learning to blow out a candle). At the assembly for older kids they practice morning exercises, sing a short song, and hear a daily bible story. I’ve been working with the nursery age kids (age 4-8) and Sarah has been working with the kids in second standard level class. The little ones are a bit of a handful, they are always running around, it’s hard to get them to ever sit still, but they are a lot of fun. I have multiple biting and pinching marks as evident battle wounds of struggling to get kids to sit quietly even for a moment. Sarah has been enjoying working with a few of the students one on one teaching reading and colors. In the second standard level class there are 8 students, 7 boys and one girl. There are many more boys than girls at the school, as having learning disabilities is more common among boys (according to our host mom). In the class, Sarah sits between Aswin, a non-verbal autistic child and Mouly, a deaf child. Her work with Aswin is to encourage him to stay focused on the lessons and his class work. In the past few weeks Mouly has taught her the abcs in sign language. She uses that and pictures to describe the lessons and help him complete his class work. Manjunath struggles with reading, so Sarah has created a few worksheets that use the words learned in class and pictures to make sentences. The school has about 100 students, housing a large range of disabilities. Getting to know the teaching staff has been a great opportunity to glimpse another part of Indian culture. The school is very different from schools at home. It’s nice that the entire school is dedicated to special needs kids as it creates a large community and safe place for kids to feel accepted amongst each other and form friendship with other students of their same level of learning. The work is tiring, but the kids are very loving. Prayers that God may work in and through us as we form relations with the students and teachers.

In addition to attending school, we have also had the opportunity of experiencing a little Indian culture on a daily basis. School finishes at 2pm, so we usually have the afternoons open for exploring. The following accounts our daily adventures and new experiences throughout Bangalore. Some come as a bit of a culture shock at times, but we are definitely learning a lot from the Indian people, gaining insights to a different way of life.

Last Sunday we attended church with Prem and Rita (our host parents) at the Indiranagar Methodist Church. The service was longer than what we’re used to; there was even a 20 minute prayer! But the singing was very nice and the worship music was good. We were familiar with most of the worship songs – they were a little taste of home.  Also, for Sunday dinner we went out for Chinese food (our host mother doesn’t enjoy cooking…hahaha). The food was very good. Every restaurant here tends to be a bit over staffed however, there were 4 different waiters watching us eat (a bit unnearving, o well, must be a cultural thing…)

On Monday we were back to school. Monday afternoon was had quite the fun cultural experience! We went shopping for our very first saris! Our host mom, Rita took us to the silk and sari shop where we were quickly overwhelmed with a multitude of colors, choices, patterns, and designs of fabric. At the sari shop, they sit you at a table and then start pulling out heaps and heaps of different sari fabrics spread across the table. You simply shake your head yes or no and they continue to pour out more fabrics from the large display of folded saris that runs against every wall of the shop room. We were shopping for saris to wear to the upcoming wedding we will be attending next week! I was so overwhelmed with choices, I thought I wouldn’t ever be able to make a decision. Sarah was a bit more decisisive, but in the end, we both ended up purchasing beautiful saris. Sarah’s sari is deep magenta with fabulous gold trim and lots of sparkly accents – a perfect sari to wear to a wedding where the goal is to “see and be seen” according to Rita. My sari is deep purple (true husky purple pride thru and thru ...hahaha) and is trimmed with a simple gold floral design – chic and sophisticated. After the silk shop, we had to go to the Jeweler to get the appropriate bling to wear with our saris to the wedding. The jewelry is very lavish, yet extrememly inexpensive. It is strikingly similar to jewelry you might wear to play dress up as a child. It’s perfect for the wedding.  We each bought matching purple and maroon bangles. Also, the necklace and earrings come as a set, so we each got blinged-out, diamond-encrusted sets. The man at the jewelry store kept trying to convince me to buy a dangly head piece to wear on my forehead as well; I politely refused. With bangles, earrings, necklace, and sari to match, I didn’t want to over-do it any more than necessary. After leaving the Jeweler, we were off to visit the tailor! Each sari dress must get a custom made belly shirt top, known as a blouse, to match. Thus, at the tailor, they only measured from the bust line up. Hahaha. The front of the sari is covered by drapey fabric, but the back is open. We each got to choose a different custom design for the cut of the back of the blouse. This was a lot of fun.

On Tuesday, we ventured out on our own! After reading the detailed guidebook section on Bangalore, we decided our best option was to visit one of Bangalore’s main attractions, the Botanical Gardens. We took an auto (small taxi rickshaw) to the gardens, which was a bit difficult, seeing as we’re obvious foreigners, so everyone always wants to rip us off. But luckily our host mom has taught us all the tricks of the trade, so we managed to get an auto for a decent price (still a bit over charged however…haha). When we arrived at the gardens, we followed the guidebook instructions, and hired a buggy tour guide to drive us around the whole of the gardens. The gardens are more than 96 acres. The buggy guide man took a huge liking to us! This was wonderful! He offered to hold our cameras and take our photos for us at EVERY SINGLE stopping point. It was a bit ridiculous to be entirely honest, especially seeing that there were at least 6 other people on the same buggy ride as we were, and he didn’t offer to take their pics nearly as often, it ever. At one point, while we were trying to take a photo of ourselves by outstretching our arm, he snatched up the camera and took a photo of not just Sarah and me, but of the whole buggy ride gang (!), forcing everyone else on the tour to stop and pose for my camera! O gosh, all I can say is he was most flattered when I asked to take a photo with him; I thought his eyes might have begun to tear up. All in all the gardens were a lot of fun. In addition to the attention we received from our guide, we also attracted lots of attention from other people passing through the park. Multiple people came up and asked to take photos with us! And lots of people tried to take sneak photos of us on their cell phones and cameras. People came up and asked our names and wanted to introduce themselves. At one point, a man asked me to hold his baby daughter and pose for a picture! He was so excited I couldn’t refuse. I felt like we were celebrities or something.

After we left the park, we caught an auto home and did some running around with Rita. We went to the grocery store and stopped along the street to drink fresh coconut milk straight out of coconuts! The man simple cut a hole and dropped a straw inside so we could sip on the sweet milk. After the milk was finished, we passed the coconut back to him and he sliced it open to reveal fresh coconut meat/cream for eating. It was delicious. I felt like we were in the tropics!

On Wednesday afternoon we decided to go exploring with Rita. There is a small lake located fairly close to our house which Rita said had recently renovated with the addition of walking paths around the lake. We all jumped into an auto and went to the lake to take a lengthy stroll around. We started the journey around the lake, but after only 20 short minutes of walking, we encountered a slight problem. Come to find, the path we had thought encircled the entire lake, in fact only went half way around. Our 20 minute walk had landed us in the middle of a garbage pit and 12 foot fence with no exit and nowhere to turn but back the way we had come. Hahaha. I guess it was a naive to assume the renovation would have made a path that went around the lake, why not only half, that’s far enough I suppose. After our half-walk around the lake, we went back home and went out for Indian kabobs. Once again we encountered 5 waiters staring at us eat, I guess we’ll just have to get used to that…but after dinner, we stopped at the sweet shop to sample some Indian delicacies. Most of the candies here are milk based or rice based, as is every food in India. I had no idea you could use rice is so many different new and creative ways; rice cakes, steamed rice, vegetable rice, rice tortillas, rice dessert, rice milk, on and on and on. People who can’t eat wheat/gluten would be in food heaven here!

On Thursday afternoon we went to Rita’s friends house to attend a yoga session. Although we were looking forward to experiencing authentic Indian yoga, we couldn’t have been prepared for what the session had in store for us. The yoga instrucot insisted we come early to the session so he could introduce himself and meet both of us. What this really entailed was the instructor giving us a long-winded lecture on the philosophy of life and how it’s only through yoga a person is able to experience inner peace and happiness. Sarah’s brave soul was quick to counter his argument, stating that we find peace from Jesus and contentment with His plan for our life. This was not acceptable to the yoga instructor. He has been teaching yoga for 36 years and needless to say is a very eccentric man. No matter what we could have said, I doubt he would have listened to a word of it. After our awkward and slightly uncomfortable introducing, we proceded to the yoga class. This was held on the rooftop terrace and we sat on reed mats. It was lovely. Except for the fact that the yoga instructor kept picking on both of us throughout the entire session; there wasn’t one exercise we did correctly the whole hour! The session was more religion focused than anticipated (I have an inkling he was trying to convert us to Hinduism…haha), and the instructor was very intense about breathing properly. Hmmmm. It was a bit odd to say the least. After the session was over the instructor approached Sarah and me and proceeded to look us both up and down and then began evaluating us! I was in complete and utter shock. He told me I have funny spots under my eyes and that I have poor blood circulation and other physical things I should try fixing. He recommended I eat more fennel seeds and a bunch of other jibberish home remedies. The audacity of this man was simply outrageous! Sarah told him thank you, but surprise surprise we were happy with ourselves and our bodies before he began evaluating them and we weren’t in need of any of his advice! Hahaha. I was so happy when it was finally time to leave. I don’t think we’ll be returning for future sessions…

On Friday we went to school and then had a very relaxing afternoon. We did a bit of shopping around when we live. I purchased my first India outfit (for daywear, not a sari) and we bought some pirated movies on the street. :) It was a nice afternoon.

We woke up very early on Saturday because we planned a daytrip to the neighboring town of Mysore. We booked the trip through a guided tour bus and were eager to meet the other people traveling on the bus with us. Since it was a guided tour, the only natural assumption was that there would be other tourists from around the world on the bus. I was looking forward to traveling with other American, European, or Asian tourists, so we would better blend in crowds of people. WRONG! When we arrived on the bus, to our great surprise we were the ONLY non-Indian tourists and the ONLY young women on the bus! We couldn’t have been more naïve in our assumption. It turns out Bangalore isn’t a very popular place among tourists and the schools in the northern part of India have summer holiday during the months of June and July, so many of the other people on the bus were Northern Indian Nationals. I have never felt like more of a minority. It’s exhausting always standing out from the crowd, never feeling like you really fit in, and receiving ceaseless stares from onlookers. But that aside, the day trip ended up being a lot of fun. Our guide took a liking to us (we must have looked like lost puppies on the street) because at every tour destination spot, he came and personally delivered the instructions to us, making sure we fully understood and guiding us through the security, camera checks, etc. We visited a beautiful palace, a Hindu temple (one of the eight most holy places in all of S. India), the botanical gardens with a light up dancing fountain, and the silk and sandlewood factory (what Mysore is known for). It was a very long day, but luckily we had packed plenty of snacks for the bus ride and took lots of great pictures. The only slight detraction was the constant haggling of street vendors. They are very persistent and would follow us for ages shouting prices for goods over and over again. Finally I told one man I thought his carving was very ugly and would he please go away. This didn’t work. Our tour guide was able to shoo off a few of the hasselers for us, but the day would have been much less stressful without the constant oncoming of vendors; we must look like easy targets.

That concludes our daily adventures for week one in India. It’s been quite a ride. 

Prayer Requests:
Prayers for good health as our host dad was been a bit under the weather and Sarah missed one day of classes due to pink eye last week. Also, prayers that we may connect with the other teachers at school and form friendships with not only the kids, but with the teaching staff as well. Thanks to God that we are getting along with our host family so well, they are wonderful to us! Prayers for safety. Prayers that God would continue to open our eyes and hearts to a world outside our own; that we may be open to new experiences and learn from different ways of life. Prayers that we adjust to being starred at all of the time and don’t get discouraged or frustrated by this.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read our blog and thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.