Island 2 – (1/19/17)

 Nolan

          This trip as a whole has felt like a good mixture of fun, hard work, and good conversation, and I would say that our second island could be described in very much the same way. I vividly remember on our first day on the island we were asked to play with the kids within an hour or so of arriving. As we were lead to the soccer field to play with the kids I remember looking behind me to see a swarm of 30-40 kids following us. I am always amazed to see the joy that we can bring to the kids faces by playing and joking with them and they have no idea that we are experiencing that very same joy.

          For our work project on this island we put up a guard rail along a path in front of the government building with a steep drop on one side. This project consisted of clearing a spot for the rail, mixing cement, and fixing the pieces of the railing together. What I find unique about the work projects is that it does more than provide them the one intended purpose of the finished project. The project acts as a unifier, bringing together people of various different ages and allows us to have a shared space with many different people. We get to work right alongside the people of the island and it creates a great experience for all of us.

         Finally, we got to be a part of great conversations with our host families. Some conversations are very surface level, but are necessary to build a good relationship with our hosts. Some conversations, however, can go deeper and feel a little more meaningful. In my home, through different events that occurred, we got into discussing about evil spirits. This gave us the opportunity to share with the grandfather of our home the power that Jesus has over evil spirits. We then were able to share the story of Jesus’ power over the demons from Mark 5. I do not know the lasting impact that this story will have on our grandfather’s life, but I know that it at least got him to think about the power that Jesus has, which to me, is a very beautiful thing. 

Kelsie

This island proved to be completely set apart from the first island for me. I was surprised by my level of hesitancy on the first island, overwhelmed by the apparent number of barriers and things to adjust to in order to relate to the people. Getting to know our translator, learning what it looks like to communicate through another person, my own hope of being relevant and relatable when sharing stories, & an incredible amount of pressure I heaped on myself to have every conversation be spiritually meaningful, left me feeling less like myself and unable to share during mealtimes. 

The acknowledgment of these lofty expectations I had for conversation and myself, provided me with the opportunity to relax on the second island. It felt like a relearning of how to engage in small talk, to talk about normal life things with the hope of better knowing and being known by the people on the island. As a result, I felt more like myself on the second island, more comfortable & even more confident to engage in conversation. 

All that said, the moment I will most remember from this island is one that I observed. The women from the other house met an Ibu and were invited into her home when they went walking around the island one afternoon. My house of women entered the conversation after it had already begun & they were already deep into sharing stories. 

When we arrived, they were about to begin sharing the story of the prodigal son. This story seems to continually reappear for me, packed with even more meaning every time I encounter it. This time was no different. One of the women on the team started the story, sharing about how hard the Father in the story worked to save up an inheritance for his two sons. An equal inheritance for both, freely & fairly prepared to be given. After this was explained the Ibu interrupted and said,

“That is a really amazing Father.”

This small sentence was so simple and so incredibly profound. It was one of those moments for me where you feel like you wake up to the reality of how amazing the Father is, & how little I acknowledge it. 

I will never be able to erase the image of her face, completely focused on the story being told, eager to hear how the Father will react to a son that chooses to squander his inheritance. At the conclusion of the story & hearing the incredible acceptance of the Father, she retold the entire story back to us, connecting the Father character to God on her own. 

I left that conversation feeling overwhelmed with emotion at the level of her wisdom. Her ability to speak profoundly about the Father, left me longing for a future for her of coming to fully know who Jesus is. 

I feel grateful to have been in that room, to be so encouraged & deeply moved by her, and to have the opportunity to continue to pray for her as she goes about life on the island. Pray that she would come to know that the really amazing Father, is hers.

Katie

Island 2 had a much different feel to it. Island 1 felt more rural and unified as a village, while island 2 felt more urban and not as tight knit. The houses the team stayed in were all in the village. Where I stayed in particular was a beautiful two story house in the center of he village. This house felt really inviting and different than the previous house I stayed in that was much different. The Ibu that hosted us was very spunky and welcoming which was a beautiful thing to interact with for four days. 

Our time on this island felt a lot more slow paced and relaxing which was good for the team. Some of the team went out on the streets and got bumbled by kids while others stayed in their homes and drank there overly sweet tea and talked to their Ibus and bapaks. Our work project was building a wall that kept the kids from falling over the edge. We mixed concrete and poured it to make the wall.

This island felt a lot more superstition which prompted some interesting conversations. There were houses that had more spiritual talks than others. In my house we actually got a chance to share the gospel with our Ibu, after she explained that in the Muslim religion there is a point system that measures how good your works are and if you have enough points at the end of your life you go to heaven. This felt like a door opened to share the gospel with Ibu. We explained that we don’t have a point system following Jesus because He took all our points on the cross. During this conversation, I could feel the emotion welling up inside of me while Grace tried to hard to help her see what Jesus did for Ibu on the cross. Not only were tears flowing but my heart ached. I never knew my heart could ache so much from the gospel. I never had seen the power of Jesus take over so much, I prayed deeply while grace used the cup analogy to describe that Jesus took on all our junk. I wanted so badly for her to know she is loved and accepted no matter what she does. The tricky thing with this is Muslims believe we believe the same thing and we are all going to heaven, so even though this conversation was rich it was still discouraging that she didn’t understand. 

Overall this was a beautiful island and Jesus was definitely present and working in these people’s hearts. 

As we set off to our next island tomorrow please pray for good health and energy as we are nearing the end of our journey. A lot of people on the team have been sick so please join us in praying against any sickness or exhaustion. 

Peru Team Q&A – (1/19/17)

What is the best part of the trip so far?

Hope: The best part of the trip definitely has to be developing relationships with the kids we’ve worked with. It’s been so cool to see the same kids multiple days in a row and see their faces light up when we arrive. They’ve really enjoyed the VBS activities that we do with them and we’ve all formulated special memories with kids at the various learning centers.

Graham: For me, the best part of the trip has been experiencing the Peruvian culture. Besides Canada and China when I was very young, I haven’t been able to experience a culture outside the United States. Eating the food, getting to know the locals, and seeing the sights has been a dream come true.

Alyssa: The best part of the trip so far has been the relationships we have made with each other, the kids, the translators, our wonderful hosts, and more. Through these relationships I have been able to learn so much about the culture here, and I love learning about their stories and their shared love for the same awesome God we serve. I’ll definitely never forget the feeling of worshipping in multiple languages with people who one month ago we didn’t know, however we are all part of the same family in Christ.

 

What has been the most challenging part of the trip?

        Hope: Since the majority of our time is spent with children, it is common for our team to be really tired by the end of the day.  The kids are expecting a day full of fun and games each time we arrive, so many days we have to dig deep to provide enthusiasm and high energy for the children to enjoy. Prayers for continued energy and health of the team are very appreciated.

Graham: Unfortunately, most of the people in Peru do not speak English. As someone who thrives on conversations, it has been very difficult for me to communicate with both the children and the adults. There are times when I want to sit down and have a conversation with the young men and women, but haven’t been able to. Thankfully, we have a God without language barriers, so His will is still being done.

Alyssa: I would agree that it is challenging when the whole team is tired, to put full energy into the VBS activities we do with the kids. God has been showing me that I can’t rely on my own strength and energy to make it through the day, however it is through His power and His love that we can rely on for all that we need. It is the days that I have been the most tired that God has taught me the most.

 

 

What has been the most surprising part of the trip?

         Hope: I have been surprised to see how quickly the three and a half week trip has gone by so far.  The days are packed and feel long, but the weeks have been flying by. Today was the last day we did VBS activities with the kids, and it’s hard to believe that we only have a week left in this beautiful country!

Graham: The most surprising part for me has been the hospitality. It must be shocking for a local to see a group of 13 gringos walking by their home, but we have only been treated with kindness. Whether it’s a simple smile and wave, or a wonderful meal, the people of Ayacucho have welcomed us as family. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say the hospitality of the people here have exceeded expectations.

Alyssa: The most surprising part for me has been how quickly the kids have warmed up to us and loved us. When we arrived at Casa Luz, right away the kids ran up and hugged us, and called us “Tia” and “Tio” (aunt and uncle). It has been so cool to get to know these kids who are so young, and yet show us the love of God so well. This has also been true in the different learning centers- the kids are always so full of energy and love.

 

 

What has been your favorite part of the ministry so far?

Hope: It’’s been amazing to see how much love and joy the children have to give; regardless of their circumstances.  I personally have learned so much about how unconditional true love really is from children as young as four years old. Before the kids even know us well, they never hesitate to offer a smile, hug, or a friendly, “Hola!”  Seeing this has challenging me to strive to cultivate a love that is pure and true in all aspects of my life.  These kids have shown me more about what God’s love looks like towards each and every person—no what their past, present, or future may hold.

Graham: My favorite part of our ministry has been the laughter we have shared. Whether the kids are laughing at a skit or our poor Spanish, their smiles never cease to bring me joy. I’ve laughed more on this trip than I have in a long time, and it is so refreshing. God is using smiles and laughter to further His kingdom, and it’s so amazing to see.

Alyssa: My favorite part of the ministry has been seeing how God is using people here to further His kingdom. Our team had the chance to sit down and listen to the stories of Mariela and Tonya. Mariela is Pastor Jorge’s wife and founder of Casa Luz, and Tonya is the women providing our meals for us, and the cook for Casa Luz. They told us how they got started with the ministry, and some individual stories of the kids who we have grown to love. It is so encouraging to hear about the work of the Lord all across the world.

 

What will you miss the most about Peru?

Hope: Besides the beautiful warm weather and the kiddos I have come to love, I will really miss the hospitality of the Peruvian people. In general, everyone we have worked with and encountered is so appreciative of our mission and incredibly thoughtful.  For example, when our team arrived at the Primitiva learning center for the first time, the faculty and staff lined the stairway singing a welcome song and presenting each woman (and Paul Jacobson 😉 with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I have felt so welcome at each place we have visited and I love the example of hospitality that is so evident in the Peruvian culture.

Graham: I will miss the relationships we have made the most. While we haven’t spent a lot of time with each group of people, our relationships are deeply rooted. Hearing your name called by multiple Peruvian children is an experience I will never forget. Distance may separate us, but the love of God will continue to keep our relationships intact.

Alyssa: Like Hope, I will also miss the hospitality of the people here. Hope and I stayed with the same host family for a night, and they welcomed us with so much love, gave up their rooms so we could sleep, and spent the whole day showing us the beautiful city of Ayacucho. One of our host sisters named Ruth also handmade knit hats for us! They made an effort to talk to us despite the language barrier, and seemed truly happy to have us in their home. At lunch, they asked us both what our favorite food was, and we said popcorn. By the end of the day, they had a bag of popcorn for each of us to have. It was such an incredible experience, and something I’ll never forget.

Pokhara – Nepal (1/17/17)

Hey Mom and Dad, it’s Josiah! This is for you and all of my team’s family and friends that are following along on our journey via this blog.

This blog post is about the start of our time in Pokhara, how it is different from our “home” in Kathmandu, and the beginnings of our ministry teaching children at the Dream School.

Last Friday, January 13, we made the trek (hehe) from Kathmandu to Pokhara. We piled into two vans and drove the better part of 7 hours to make it to a city in Nepal with beautiful lakes, monstrous hills, and terrifyingly awesome mountains. Pokhara is a lot different than Kathmandu. A good way to sum up the differences between the two cities is that in Pokhara, there is more room. The roads are paved and there are things I will never take for granted again called, sidewalks.

Pokhara feels like a breath of fresh air. I am able to swing my arms when I walk again, while looking all around at the beautiful mountains, serene lake, street vendors and everyday life of the Nepali people. To begin our first full day in Pokhara, we took a sunrise hike to a great view of the Himalayas. It was a wonderful way to focus on how great our God is, and try to recapture that wonder.

From the time that we arrived in Pokhara, to Sunday morning, you could sense anxiety amongst our team at the mention of teaching. No one on our team feels called to be a teacher at this point, and so we could not help but feel anxious about teaching kids about a country/subject we ourselves are not from or do not know for four hours a day for a week! The Dream School in Pokhara is having a special week at school where we have the opportunity to teach one grade about a specific country. The students are being challenged to learn about the world and different cultures and people the Lord has made. Our team was split up into groups of two and each group was given a class (grade) and country for that class to learn.

We woke up early on Sunday and made our way to the school. We arrived early so we could get situated in our classrooms for the week. The school is set up like the letter U. The U is made up of around twelve rooms including an office and a library. There is nothing special about the rooms, and it is a little tight for my class of sixteen second graders, Melody, my teaching partner and I, the translator, and the normal teacher for that classroom.

The blanket of anxiety our team was feeling about teaching was quickly lifted and replaced by joy during the first day. Teaching is still hard and we realize all everyday teachers are superheroes, but our team has also recognized that we CAN do this and that the kids are eager to learn what we have and for them. The students have  made teaching this week worth it! They are beyond polite and well behaved. Every time they return from recess, they ask for permission to enter the class room. They refer to Melody and I as Melody Miss and Jojo Sir. Our team got on the bus after the first day and shared stories of cute, funny, and smart their kids are as we regrouped and prepared for the next day.

Teaching these kids could be the highlight of the trip. Today, while learning the Samba, a type of dance founded in Brazil, one of my students, Ajit, played with the veins in my left hand. There is wonder to be found in this as well.

While some on the team have had small physical issues, overall we are healthy! We are ready to roll with the punches that day to day life brings.

 

Thank you, teachers, for all that you do. You are truly underappreciated. Thank you to those who aspire to be teachers. You are awesome. Thank you family and friends for your support. This trip would not be a reality without you allowing the Lord to use your funds and prayers. Thank you for your constant prayers and letters of encouragement. They are appreciated and well received. We miss you and we love you. Do not worry, Mom, I have showered plenty and my teeth are brushed.

Our God is an awesome God. Our guide and friend Usha has been such a blessing.

-Jojo Sir

P.S. Happy Birthday, Mort!

Imaynaya cachcanki from Peru! – (1/17/17)

This Monday evening the team is resting after a rewarding day of work. The past week was full of amazing experiences, hard work, and new friends. We began the week by painting the kitchen and dining area of Primitiva church and learning center here in Ayacucho. When we entered the learning center, the workers presented each of the women on the team (and Paul) with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. We were overwhelmed by their kindness, and extremely excited to get started. We spent two days painting both the inside and outside of the building, starting early in the morning and ending in the late afternoon. The work was taxing but completely worthwhile once we were able to see the finished product and the gratitude of the learning center staff.

Each day this week we also did VBS activities with the kids at the learning centers. The first two days a couple of us would take a break from painting to do skits, songs, and crafts with the kids. On Wednesday, we were able to visit a produce market in the morning before doing VBS with the kids after lunch. We have all had a lot of fun doing the activities with the kids and seeing firsthand how creative and energetic they are!

On Thursday and Friday, we visited Maranatha church and learning center. We met the pastors that run the learning center and church in the morning, and they shared their story with us. After they shared, we split into two groups and each visited a home of one of the members of the congregation. It was very enlightening to learn about the homes that the children attending the learning center come from, and we were very grateful for our hosts’hospitality. In the afternoons, we did VBS with the kids. In addition to sharing God’s love with the kids, we also were blessed by several presentations and gifts they had prepared for us. The kids were ecstatic to have us come, and we were glad that we got to spend time playing, dancing, and laughing with them.

For the weekend, we went on a short trip up into the mountains, and we were also able to go on homestays. On Saturday, we overcame two flat tires to go to the Wari Tombs and Museum to learn about the history of the Wari people group. We also had the opportunity to ride horses through the mountains and see some of the amazing scenery that Peru has to offer.

Once we returned in the evening, we went in pairs on homestays. Each group stayed with a family that attends one of the local churches. We were all grateful for the hospitality we experienced, and making friends with limited verbal communication, while difficult, was very gratifying. After attending church with the family, we spent the afternoon with them before returning to the house to prepare for our ministry this week.

We appreciate prayers for the health of the team, as several of us are sick, and prayers for safety and success at the kids camp that we will be helping with at the end of this week. Thank you all for your prayers and support!

On behalf of the Peru Team,

Rachel Pfeiffer

Exhaustion, Persistence, and Rest – Greece (1/15/17)

To all of our avid blog followers, hello! If you’re not sitting down, I would suggest that you do so, preferably on the edge of your seat. The past week here in Moria has been both long and quick. There is a constant battle of trying to process emotions and thoughts that seem too heavy and complex, and with so little down time between shifts we are left mentally exhausted. This coupled with the physical exhaustion that comes with the work makes for a pretty tired Greece team.

However, the Lord blesses his people and two days ago we had an entire day off work. There are few things more beautiful than a morning left to itself without the harsh blare of an alarm clock (expect when that alarm clock gets you up in time to see the sun rise over Turkey across the Aegean). A peaceful morning suited our team well. Even though we had a day off, we still had a lot planned for us.

Our Greater Europe Mission (GEM) hosts, Susie and Ernie, picked us up from our hotel around 11:30 and drove us to a refugee camp about 45 minutes away. This place was the complete opposite of what we had come to expect from Moria. It was small with only about 6 or 7 buildings, and in stark contrast to Moria, there was no one there. This place is a stage 2 camp whereas Moria is stage 3. Refugees are only placed here for a handful of hours before they are moved to Moria. After our stop here we took some time to enjoy the rocky shore of island. We spent a good amount of time here taking pictures, skipping rocks, and enjoying an afternoon of relaxed fun. A few people waded into the sea up to there waist, even though it meant coming out with sopping wet pants. The next stop on our island adventure was a trip to an old castle. Giving a group of college students 30 minutes of free reign and exploration of a castle? Yes please. It was crazy to think that a place that was once a strong fortress is now feeding our tourism. A place of prominence and might now standing in ruins. As I stood atop the tallest tower gazing out across the Aegean, I couldn’t shake one simple and yet richly profound thought; I wish capes were still in style.

Visiting all of these places on our day off was fun and full of laughter, as our team so often is. After leaving, we made our way to our last stop before eating and then making our way back. The lifejacket graveyard. Mounds and heaps of used lifejackets piled high made for a chilling sight. Each one of these jackets was once strapped to the body of a man, woman, or child crossing the sea on a boat. Each one of these jackets represents a person, a life, a soul, a human made in the likeness of God. Each one of these jackets carries a story of desperation, fear, risk, dreams, and hope. Questions fill your mind and heart. How many of these people have been granted asylum? How many of them have been deported? How many of them were with their familiy? How many of them were alone? How many of them are alive? How many of them are dead? How many of them have I met in Moria? Did I help the person who wore this jacket? Did I say no to the person wearing this jacket? Did this jacket belong to the man in Moria who put his coat on me as I sat outside in the cold? Has this person made me tea? Where are they now? Are they scared? How long ago did they wear this jacket? How recently? The air around this place was heavy, and it seemed to bring greater understanding of who we interact with on a daily basis. It humanized them and opened our hearts to their reality.

All in all, the day was restful and thoughtful. It was great to finally be able to spend time with Susie and Ernie and actually get to know them and have them get to know us. As we head into this next week of work, we have a few prayer requests. Please pray that the Lord would allow us to open ourselves up to the grief and pain of the refugees. Pray that we would meet these people on equal footing, recognizing their humanity. Pray that Jesus would shine through our actions. Pray that we would have strength and persistence in wrestling with our own thoughts and emotions. Pray for God’s Kingdom to come.

Thank you all for following our journey thus far! We love and appreciate you all. On behalf of the Greece team, this is Robert Emerson Brandkamp signing off.

Rest – Poland (1/14/17)

It’s snowing softly outside and our team is just beginning to wake up on this Saturday morning in Sandomierz. After finishing our first week in the Collegium, we’ve had the opportunity to speak with students inside and outside of class.

Several members of our team met a group of students at a local coffee shop where we learned about their experiences, hopes and aspirations. One student wants to enter an IT profession, others want to be doctors. Many are nervous about their upcoming Matura exam (somewhat similar to the SAT or ACT tests). Often, if we ask students, “What are your hopes after Collegium?” they answer something like, “It’s hard to say, it depends on my Matura exam.” Others respond, “If my Matura score is high enough, I can become _____. If not, maybe I’ll _____.”

While some students are more shy in speaking English than others, most whom we ask about the Matura tell us they felt stressed or nervous. When asked what they do in their free time, many students respond: study.

To help students study for the Matura, the local church offers English classes, open to the community where we have the privilege to serve. For students preparing for the Matura, there are practice tests and times of conversation with our team. Cassidy and I spoke with Iga, a third year student at the Collegium. (There are only three years of “high school” at the Collegium in Sandomierz where we visit). Iga hopes to become a linguist and passionately pursues the study of language. She speaks English well, but also wants to learn Spanish. Once, she spent time in Spain and was captivated by the language there. She remembers looking at an older woman who spoke Spanish and knew no Polish. Iga was frustrated that here was a woman in front of her with whom she desperately wanted to speak. Yet, due to the language barrier, it became an impossibility.

So Iga continued to study language as she returned to Sandomierz. She met some Taylor students last year whom she invited to her house. When she met some members of our team this year, she did the same.

Several members of our team visited Iga’s home where we were welcomed by her father, mother, older sister and four-month-old niece. We sat in Iga’s room as she showed us shelves of foreign language textbooks, flash cards, fiction books and decor (including a Taylor University mug, British flag and tumbler printed with the New York skyline.

Her eyes lit up as she described her love for languages and music. When Iga is not studying, she sings at her church, which according to Iga, is one of nine Catholic Churches in Sandomierz. Iga smiled as she described visiting a worship service while in Spain where she remembers singing with people of all backgrounds of Christianity. She saw unity in the worship service and that filled her with joy.

Iga told us that sometimes, she watches Taylor University videos online, including chapel videos and has seen many films showing Americans at church. She asked us if all churches in the United States dance and feel so free when they worship. We explained chapel and some of our varied experiences with different church backgrounds. Iga told us, she love the beauty in her church, an ornate cathedral in Sandomierz. Though she does not know the meaning of every tradition, it is treasured to her.

We are continuing to learn from the students we meet, even despite illness that has spread to many members of our team. Please pray for restored health and a smooth, speedy recovery so that we may encourage the students and love them with Christ’s love well.

We are encouraged by the curiosity and passion of many students in our conversations. We feel privileged that, though most of us do not speak Polish, the students learn to speak our language, even as it is difficult. When we discover a topic which they love, they gather the a English words to express their thoughts, even if they were shy before.

Please pray for the students at the Collegium (and elementary schools). Pray that they would be courageous in their pursuit of language and relationships with the church community. Pray that they would be resilient in a difficult season of exams. Pray that they would feel the love of Christ tangibly, that hey may know the God who fully knows and fully loves them. Pray that they would accept and experience grace. Pray that they would be, as C.S. Lewis would say, ‘surprised by joy.’

We’re resting today, but continue to praise God for his unfolding story in Sandomierz. It has unfolded for centuries, from the beauty of cathedrals to the people of valor who fought battles in the tunnels below the city. We see His story in the narratives of generations with varied experiences, blending together. We see precious children of God with stories, some hidden by language barriers and told instead through expressions, passions and the eyes.

In Christ,

Katherine Yeager

Telunas – 3 Perspectives (1/13/17)

 Jordan

         On Sunday afternoon, we finally hopped on the boat and headed from Telunas to our first home stay on an island. There was much anticipation and excitement as we realized we were about to engage in conversations and activities we had been planning for months. After about an hour we arrived at the village we would be staying at for the next few days. Our team was greeted with an overwhelming sense of hospitality as much of the village had come to the end of their jetty to meet us. What felt like all of the village children lined the jetty and greeted us with an Indonesian handshake and then offered to carry our bags as we headed to our homes. As soon as we got to our homes our Ibus (mothers) and Bapaks (fathers) welcomed us with tea and coffee (loaded with sweetened condensed milk) and homemade snacks. We sat in a circle on the floor and began the process of encountering a culture very different from our own. While at times it felt very uncomfortable (i.e. being hot, sleeping on the floor, eating sting ray, hearing the mosque, or waking up to giant centipedes in the middle of the night), we were met with such hospitality and our Ibus and Bapaks treated us like family, which made the transition easier. Also, we’re learning more about what it means to be “comfortable” and each of us are loving the opportunity to take steps out of our comfort zone. 

       It feels like much of what we did on these island visits could be divided into two parts – constantly playing with kids and engaging in conversation with adults (mainly our Bapaks and Ibus over meals or at night). While there was still much darkness and confusion on this island, you could say that there was also a sense of hopefulness that this island could be on the brink of a change. This could be seen in both the children and the adults. For example, the children knew some songs about the Son, and while it was sad that they did not really understand what they were saying, God’s presence was felt in many interactions with kids. One of the most well off men on the island has recently begun to trust in the Son during this island visit, we got to have a really good conversation with his next door neighbor/brother and leader of the village. It turns out they both watch a TV program about the Son almost every night and the leader of the village asked about the story of Him and what is true. One of our translators shared the full story with him. He moved around uncomfortably and then sat in silence. When our translator felt the the Spirit prompting her to ask if his heart felt hot and he replied “yes.” It it amazing to see the way God is moving on this island without us, and also how He did choose to use us. 

Grace

     After arriving, our first full day began with a mandi (bucket shower), breakfast (consisting of more sweet coffee and tea, spicy noodles, and homemade donuts), and a work project mixing concrete for a public mandi floor. We then had the honor of jumping off of the jetty into water to cool ourselves after the hard work. Children joined soon after, and we found ourselves playing, wrestling, and running around for hours with the joyful children. The laughs and giggles from these playful kiddos will be burned into our memories forever, and we are thankful to have them. As the day wound down, we took another mandi before dinner where we sat on the floor eating and talking with our Ibu and the children that gathered to listen.

     The next day began the same as the first, but our work project was painting the public mandi a bright orange with a trimming of green. We then had a chance to visit the school and teach some English to the children before heading back to our houses for lunch. Once finished with lunch one of the female houses had the opportunity to follow their Ibu into the forest where she explained that every day she worked with rubber trees. Children followed into the forest singing and listening as the Ibu showed them all how she would cut a sliver of the tree back to release a white liquid that when dried would become a rubber that she would then sell. It was interesting to see more of her life, and it honored her to know that these women cared. Dinner was more lively that night as we spoke about these new topics.

     That night, the village held a closing ceremony in our honor where we danced and sang in Indonesian dress. As we said goodbye during the closing ceremony our hearts were heavy. Children and Ibus followed us to the jetty the next morning as we left this beloved new island. We had made so many friends, and we were thankful for the time we had been given to learn about the culture and love these people fully. We now pray that God will continue to work in this area and bring more into His arms. 

 Drew 

This trip so far has been one of beauty and challenge in many ways. It’s hard to put words to what I have experienced so far but I would have to say though that most sticks out to me is the idea of resting when God is meeting you. It is easy to be comfortable, especially when it comes to our relationship with God. For me, being comfortable has always meant being angry. Questions such as, “why does God allow things to happen in the matter in which they do?” is often on my mind. When I see pain that I cannot reconcile with my view of God it makes me angry. I would fix the problem so why doesn’t He.

God so often has met me in that place of anger but I too often let that be the last emotion I feel. A God that I am angry at is a God that I feel in control of. Through the first visit to the island I am, slowly by slowly, learning to be. Letting God meet me in an emotion outside of anger feels out of control, maybe even dangerous. What if what I feel isn’t something I am comfortable with? What if I feel nothing but emptiness? I’d much rather feel anger than nothing at all.

When going to the final 2 islands please pray that my team and I leave room for emptiness. Knowing that our God is a God who fills. He may not make us feel better or make things easier but He is always filling space, pursuing us in the midst of heartache and joy, pain and pleasure, laughter and cries. Pray that we have the courage to feel all these things and let God meet us there.

“This emptiness is gospel, not law; poetry, not prose. It is welcome to a God who is coming in to fill.”

BORDER VISIT – Joy Amidst the Pain (1/13/17)

Hello friends and family!

Thank you for your immense prayer and support. It is incredible to know how many people are praying for us in the U.S. We know that prayer is powerful and effective and it is evident in how the Lord is working here in Nepal.

It is hard for me to express in words what we have just experienced. To give an overview, our team was split into two groups. Each group flew to a different border location. Both groups had very different experiences and were impactful in various ways. I will speak specifically to my group’s experience and my personal feelings and reflections.

We left Kathmandu for the airport at about 7:40 a.m. on Wednesday morning Nepali time. We were met by a Nepali Tiny Hands staff member who was our guide for the border trip. She was absolutely incredible and a complete blessing to us. She revealed the character of Christ in such a beautiful way. She had a gentle and sweet spirit but she was also a strong leader. There is no way we could have done anything without her. Our flight was delayed for several hours so we had plenty of time to get to know her.

Once we boarded, our flight was a quick 20 minutes or so. Our guide decided that we would take electric rickshaws (somewhat like a golf cart) to the hotel. It is hard to describe this ride. The border town we were in is not a tourist destination. Therefore, we were the only white people. The stares we received were pretty extreme. Everyone seemed to be so interested in us and why we would travel this town. The town was loaded with people…bicycle rickshaws…electric rickshaws…horses…dogs…cows…buses…people selling everything imaginable…children…and so much more. Sounds could be heard of people trying to sell certain items…animal noises…people talking in Nepali…bells ringing…Nepali music playing…and hundreds of buses and rickshaws honking their horns. There were moments when we were completely surrounded by people. So close that my knee or arm would be touching someone. Kids would laugh as they passed us and we would wave. Women and men would look at us and then take a second and third look.

We arrived at the hotel and settled in and had a meal. We were surprised to have heat in our rooms which was a great luxury. We then took another adventurous electric rickshaw ride to the Tiny Hands shelter. In order to get to the shelter, we had to walk through a construction site. This was honestly one of the only moments that I felt somewhat scared. We had to walk on a section that was slightly larger than a balance beam with a large drop on either side. It was dusty, rocky and uneven. Thankfully, none of else fell and we made it safely to the shelter.

We were greeted by several women and the pastor. We were given a tour of the shelter and we were able to have about an hour and a half of question and answer time. It was incredible to talk to these incredible staff members. We discussed the whole process about how the interceptions work, what their prayer needs are, how their jobs impact their faith and much more. What surprised us the most is that the border control monitors at this location are females aging from about 20 to 22. If that weren’t surprising enough, the woman are less than 5 feet tall.

 

These women are absolute warriors of God. They wake up to work the station sometimes at around 5 a.m. One of the females lives close to the airport, which is a far distance away, and travels every single day by herself. We were somewhat confused about how this would work at the border station but they explained that they have connections with the police and the girls also have badges. Once they show a trafficker their badge, they are taken much more seriously. It was also interesting to think from the victim’s perspective. It makes sense that a young girl would be more willing to listen to a young, Nepali female in this situation. This is not something that I expected and it was incredible to see the faith of these young women. When we began to thank them for their work, they seemed somewhat surprised. They do not seek recognition for what they do. They do it because it is what the Lord has called them to.
The main prayer request that they told us was for safety for the staff, specifically for the young women as they travel to and from the border station each day.

After visiting the home, we left to visit the actual border. We took electric rickshaws once again and it was quite an adventure. It soon became dark as we traveled. We were in two separate rickshaws and became separated due to one with a lower battery and thus slower speed. Dust was flying everywhere. The streets were extremely busy with every type of vehicle you can imagine. The street was lined with shops, broken down buildings and people’s homes. The poverty was very overwhelming to me. There are not words to describe this scene.

Upon arrival at the actual border, I was amazed. It was nothing like I expected it to be. It was very wide, crowded, and people and vehicles could easily pass through. No wonder it is so easy for Nepali girls to be trafficked into India. We were not able to go all the way into India but we were able to get into the neutral zone between Nepal and India. Thankfully, our two rickshaws found each other and the pastor shared a few words about where we were. Due to the time, we had to turn back.

This ride back was personally very heavy for me. I could not believe where I was. This was a place where hundreds of people have lost their lives. Once a person is tricked or forced to cross that border, he or she may never come back. I could not stop thinking about the thousands of girls that have been taken over that border to become a sex slave. I couldn’t stop thinking about how many girls have died due to being beaten, drugged and raped. The seriousness and the realness of the sex trade washed over me and all I could do was shed a tear in the chaos. Melody sat across from me and even in the dark she could sense my pain and comforted me.

What upset me even more was our natural American ways. We are so privileged in ways that we do not even understand. We complain when we have to skip a few meals or if we can’t take a warm shower while others are trying to figure out how to stay alive each day. The drastic contrast in lifestyle is something that I am not sure how to process. I recognized how much I take for granted and I was simply overwhelmed by the injustice I was observing.

I want you all to know that even though this was a very heavy night for me, there was a plethora of joy as well. In the other rickshaw, I was told that the group had a blast getting to know one of the border monitor woman that joined them. They chatted as best they could with the language barrier and they even sang worship songs.

We have processed a lot tonight. We have talked about how there is always joy amidst the pain and that we must remember that God is sovereign. There are moments when I simply have to say, “God, I do not understand but I trust you.” I cannot let Satan use the pain of the sex trade against me. Sometimes I feel helpless but what I am really learning on this trip is the power of prayer. Prayer is a sword against the enemy and we must realize its importance in this world! Prayer is a threat to the darkness. Prayer is a threat against human trafficking.
Once we arrived back at the hotel, we said goodbye to the Tiny Hands members and had dinner. We went to bed early and had breakfast together this morning. Upon leaving the hotel, a big group of Nepali, male students approached us and asked if they could take a photo of us as many others stared at us. What an experience! We left for the airport and got there with only 20 minutes before our flight. We had no trouble making the flight (a little different than the U.S.).

We arrived back in Kathmandu and met the rest of the team for lunch. It was so exciting to all be together again! We then had time to journal and pack for Pokhara. We split up for a dinner and then came back to the hotel for a time of worship, sharing and prayer. It was great to be together to process what we had just experienced and to pray for the Tiny Hands staff and for each other.

I want to conclude by stating that the Lord is good. The border experience was incredible and I am so thankful that I was able to witness this first hand. There was a lot of darkness, but nothing compared to the light that I saw. God is working in Nepal. God is a vibrant light through so many Nepali believers. Even though we have witnessed a plethora of darkness, it is nothing compared to the power we have seen through the name of Jesus being proclaimed.

The song “God of this City” was actually written and sang for the first time in a bar/brothel in Thailand. Aaron Boyd, from a church in Belfast, simply began to sing out what he believed God was saying over the city he was in. And I feel that the lyrics are perfect too for the nation of Nepal.
You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are

You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God

For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done here

Thank you all for your support and love!

In Christ,

Fayth Glock

 

PRAYER REQUESTS:

  • There are a few of us that are less than 100% health wise right now. Prayers for good health and healing would be appreciated!
  • Pokhara teaching – many team members are feeling nervous about teaching for a week. Prayers for courage and confidence would be great. We have just one education major so this will be an adventure! Pray that we can be a light for these children.
  • Travel – Tomorrow we have a seven hour bus ride.
  • Leadership – prayers for Erika and Chad as they continue to lead the team with such care, love and strength

Our focus – prayer that we can be focused not on ourselves but on the Lord and what He wants us to do each day. Pray that we are open to the Spirit and listening for His guidance

Shiftwork in Moria – (1/12/17)

Hello everyone!  This is Noah Shingleton on behalf of the Greece team.  Thank you so much for continuing to think and pray for us as we serve in Lesvos in Moria camp.  I do not believe that any amount of words could properly portray the things we have seen and experienced so far in Moria, but I will try to give an overview of what our lives and schedules have looked like in Lesvos these past 6 days. 

Our team came to Moria at the perfect time to fill a huge need of volunteers in a camp that is currently in somewhat of a crisis mode.  This is largely due to the weather.  As Bri mentioned earlier, our first day there was a huge storm.  Lesvos got over 2 inches of rain that first day.  The second day it snowed 2 inches, the third day the snow melted, the fourth day it snowed 4 more inches in the Southern part of the island which is where Moria is, the fifth day it rained most of the day, and today was nice for the first half of the day and now it is pouring again.  It’s supposed to rain most of the next 2 days as well.  The locals said this is more snow at one time than they have gotten in twenty to thirty years!  Overall this is the worst week of weather in recent Lesvos history.  This weather has thrown Moria into even more chaos than they normally experience, and our team has been thrust into daily 9 hour shifts to try and control the madness. 

Our jobs during our shifts mainly consist of 3 things: clothing, security, and information. If you work clothing you go out into the camp in the morning to a certain section each day and visit the tents to assess what the people need, collect the things they need in the clothing storage container, and they come pick it up in the afternoon.  Security is mainly standing at one of the 5 family compounds and making sure the only people who get into the compound are workers and the families themselves.  It is important that we keep the families and vulnerable refugees away from the majority of single men who inhabit Moria.  Information can best be described as solving problems.  Whether it is repairing or replacing a tent, putting a pallet under a tent to raise it from the water underneath, exchanging wet blankets and sleeping bags for new ones, taking a census, shoveling snow, salting the roads, running all sorts of errands, you never really know what you will be doing if you work information. 

I do not want to write a depressing blog, but I will say that the need is much greater than any of us expected to experience before we arrived.  There are just over 4,000 refugees in a camp that had an original capacity of 3,000.  Most live in tents and have been continually cold and wet during the past week.  The majority of the refugees are somewhat on edge and always in need of something during this hard time, and it is impossible to meet even half of the requests that are given to us.  We have to say no a lot, and that is so hard to tell someone who has so little that we do not have another pair of gloves to give out.  Please pray that we can show these refugees love in the midst of saying no.  It is hard for them to understand that we are still trying to help and love them even when we cannot give them what they ask for. 

This week has been hard for team unity in particular.  12 of us are on the 8am – 4:30pm shift and 7 of us work the graveyard shift from 12am – 8:30am.  The graveyard shift has been especially hard for those who are now doing it for the fourth night in a row, and we will most likely have a few more night shifts in next week’s schedule.  You basically just sit at a gate and make sure no one gets in for 8 hours alone in the cold.  The only time our team is fully together right now is in the evenings for dinner and team time, and we always make the most of that time with stories of our day or night at work and much laughter.  Thankfully all 19 of us have the same shift on Saturday and Sunday after our day off on Friday. 

Thank you again for your support throughout our journey and preparation for this trip.  There is so much more to write, but I am off to bed so I can get up for another 8am shift tomorrow and 7 of our team is about to head to Moria for the graveyard shift! 

On behalf of the Greece team,

Noah Shingleton

 

Yiasas from Greece (1/11/2017)

Yiasas from the Greece team! First of all, we would love to take the time to thank you very much for constantly praying for and supporting us as we’ve spent many hours traveling across the world to accomplish this mission. All 19 of us have already been greatly impacted in some capacity throughout these past few days.

As I recount the experiences we have had as a team thus far, it is fascinating to think that we embarked on this trip only six days ago. Traveling as a team has not only been efficient, but also a great amount of fun; we were the group in the airports that almost always had an intense game of Risk or Pass the Pigs being played on the floor and that were on a never ending scavenger hunt for a cup of coffee. We also were able to engage in many encouraging and honest conversations with one another.

Upon arriving late Thursday night in Athens, Greece, we took a bus to our hotel in hopes of conquering jetlag. Our hotel was in walking distance from the Acropolis, which allowed us to appreciate the beauty and culture of downtown Athens on Friday morning before flying to our final destination on the island of Lesvos. We explored the Acropolis museum and marveled at the seemingly incessant amount of timeless artifacts, detailed marble carvings, and powerful stories and traditions from Greek mythology, along with observing the structural remains of an ancient Greek city from a bird’s eye perspective. Following the museum, we hiked up the Acropolis – taking frequent stops to soak in the captivating beauty of Athens and the vast mountain ranges – to join the Parthenon at the top of the hill. To acknowledge that this gigantic structure standing before us has stood tall and strong for thousands of years evoked our wonder and reverence for the Greeks, which we knew would be significant to hold onto as we would soon begin to experience the less-beautiful side of Greece. After the Acropolis, our team was able to swing into a local restaurant and enjoy an authentic Greek meal together prior to flying onto the island of Lesvos.

On our first full day in Lesvos, our team was invited over to our hosts Ernie and Suzie Penner’s house for an orientation and a homemade lunch. Being able to sit in a circle together as we received a more in depth explanation of the work ahead of us was encouraging and supportive as we each experienced different emotions and began to realize how significant our team dynamic will be throughout the next three weeks, as we will need to lean on one another through it all. Suzie led us in a Bible study of Matthew 25:31-46, which recounts the final judgement of the sheep and the goats. The sheep to the right of God’s throne did not recognize that they served and worshipped God through feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned or welcoming in the stranger, yet they inherited the kingdom, while the goats to the left of God’s throne did not serve the least of these under the same ignorance to the reality that serving the least of these is serving God and therefore, they did not inherit the kingdom. We discussed what we appreciate and hold onto in this passage, what we wrestled with in response to the definitiveness of this parable, and how we are to respond to this mission throughout the next two and a half weeks. As I’ve engaged in conversations with my fellow team members since that afternoon, it is evident that we are all still picking this story apart and processing how to best apply its call to our lives individually and collectively.

Throughout the previous night and all morning during our time together, we observed a fierce rain and thunderstorm roaring outside. Our hearts began to break in a deeper way for the residents in the camp than they had before because we now understood at least a small piece of how challenging life can be as a refugee, because when a tent is your only shelter and it collapses in the middle of the night because of the storm, you’re simply out of luck until morning. Halfway through our lunch, Ernie announced that the storm had destroyed many tents, drenched the residents’ blankets, sleeping bags and clothes, and caused significant flood damage to the property, so we needed to begin work right away. After we finished our meal, the six men on our team – Shawn, Robby, Nathan, Noah, Austin and Tyler – left with Ernie to begin disaster relief. And so our work began…

Briana Wozniak

The Greece Team