Back to Kathmandu

Greetings once again from Kathmandu!

We traversed the turbulent mountain-side road from Pokhara back to Kathmandu on Tuesday. With just a few days left in this country, we were eager to find what new and exciting experiences Kathmandu had left in store. Not long after our return, we found ourselves once again following a trend of contraposed hopeful and disheartening feelings:

We first paid a visit to a ministry called IRIS, where we did our best to learn the stories of some native Nepali people while assisting the distribution of the traditional rice-and-lentil Dhal Bhat meal. As we made new friends, we were thankful for our own stories and astounded by the powerful and moving testimonies we heard.

Later we plunged into a Nepali “treasure hunt.” Treasure took on a different meaning than the norm for this adventure; we took to the streets searching for the pulse of Jesus and attempting to spread his joy. Frustration ensued for some of us as we were hit by complications of translation, and a sort of disdain among the people for what we aimed to do. We quickly figured that successful ministries in Nepal require much more tactfulness typically. Despite the challenge and lack of a map, some of us were still able to find the treasure.

The temple of Pashupati was our next notable destination. Our understanding of the Hindu and Buddhist religions increased as a tour guide led us through the grounds. For most of us, though, feelings of despair were hard to hold back while gazing upon monuments and rituals, realizing the Nepali people that surrounded us were wasting their time on frivolous pursuits.

Hope and joy were just around the corner! Our last night in Nepal was spent with children from a Tiny Hands home. We enjoyed the typical mix of games and football (soccer), and were encouraged through again experiencing the jubilant faces of the kids.

God is at work in Nepal! He may not be as obvious here as most of us are used to back home, but thankfully we are partnered with Tiny Hands.

Looking forward to our departure for home, we’d appreciate prayer for safe travels. Beyond that, pray for our team as we look back on this time and examine how we should respond in faith to what we’ve experienced.

On behalf of Team Nepal 2015,

Seth Gasick

Back to Kathmandu

Greetings once again from Kathmandu!
We traversed the turbulent mountain-side road from Pokhara back to Kathmandu on Tuesday. With just a few days left in this country, we were eager to find what new and exciting experiences Kathmandu had left in store. Not long after our return, we found ourselves once again following a trend of contraposed hopeful and disheartening feelings.
We first paid a visit to a ministry called IRIS, where we did our best to learn the stories of some native Nepali people while assisting the distribution of the traditional rice-and-lentil Dhal Bhat meal. As we made new friends, we were thankful for our own stories and astounded by the powerful and moving testimonies we heard. 
Later we plunged into a Nepali “treasure hunt.” Treasure took on a different meaning than the norm for this adventure; we took to the streets searching for the pulse of Jesus and attempting to spread his joy. Frustration ensued for some of us as we were hit by complications of translation, and a sort of disdain among the people for what we aimed to do. We quickly figured that successful ministries in Nepal require much more tactfulness typically. Despite the challenge and lack of a map, some of us were still able to find the treasure.
The temple of Pashupati was our next notable destination. Our understanding of the Hindu and Buddhist religions increased as a tour guide led us through the grounds. For most of us, though, feelings of despair were hard to hold back while gazing upon monuments and rituals, realizing the Nepali people that surrounded us were wasting their time on frivolous pursuits.
Hope and joy were just around the corner! Our last night in Nepal was spent with children from a Tiny Hands home. We enjoyed the typical mix of games and football (soccer), and were encouraged through again experiencing the jubilant faces of the kids.
God is at work in Nepal! He may not be as obvious here as most of us are used to back home, but thankfully we are partnered with Tiny Hands.
Looking forward to our departure for home, we’d appreciate prayer for safe travels. Beyond that, pray for our team as we look back on this time and examine how we should respond in faith to what we’ve experienced.
On behalf of Team Nepal 2015,
Seth Gasick

Our third Island

January 22

Today was our first full day on the third island. This morning I woke up wide awake before 6 am. However, I found great peace in seeking the presence of God out on the balcony of our family’s home. During this quiet time, I was struck by the glory of God. Our father is so HUGE and I want to see more of His heart on this island through these people.

After breakfast, the entire team met to paint the kindergarten school building. There are so many kids on this island! There were kids around the entire time we were painting which was fun and also distracting :) We played several games with them including a camp game called “down by the banks.” The kids loved this game and continued to ask to play it the rest of the day.

For lunch we had squid in squid ink! It was definitely sedap (delicious). Ibu Anissa is a great cook and we were able to learn a lot more about the family this meal. We talked about how our Ibu’s mother had been to Mecca. This opened up some opportunity to ask more about what they believe. We also asked about the books stuffed in the rafters above each door of the house thinking it has something to do with Islam. Instead, they explained that these books are charms to protect the kids from spirits that could enter the house. This was my first encounter with the influence of animism.  Finally, the last part of the day consisted of visiting another family on the island, eating dinner and playing with the extremely large group of kids that stood outside waiting for us to finish eating. We were able to tell the kids the story of David & Goliath and of Noah & the Ark. Seeing the joy of the kids was encouraging, but my heart was really heavy for the generations of people on this island. I am still learning to trust the faithfulness of our Savior and the power of prayer. I am excited for the rest of our time here. :)

Much Love

Grace

(Kurnia)

 

January 23

Our second full day on the last island began at the island’s middle school and high school. Our team divided into pairs, and together with the guides we each visited a classroom to speak for a few minutes. We introduced ourselves in English, giving the students a chance to practice. Then they asked us questions about a lot of different subjects, and some of us got to share about everything from American culture to the meaning of a purity ring one on our team was wearing.

In the high school classroom I was in, the students asked us if Americans thought all Muslims were terrorists. We were about as shocked as you are reading this, but I tried to respond as honestly as possible. Some Americans do associate Islam with terrorism, I said, as a result of memories of events like 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I continued by saying that many Americans are Muslim, and some Americans of other religions seek to befriend and connect with Muslims. As for our team, I said that we’d greatly enjoyed living with Muslim families over the past few weeks and had found them to be gracious and hospitable.

The question and answer was brief, but I thought the moment captured one of the major goals of our being in SE Asia this month: to create a bridge between cultures and faiths. The sad reality is that on both sides, stereotypes and misconceptions exist. The pain of past events can distort the way we understand other people and may lead us to label ethnic or religious groups as the enemy, despite how similar we might be other ways. Learning to see past the stereotypes perpetuated by our culture is one of the first steps to beginning relationships with people of other cultures, and those relationships are the gateway to sharing more deeply our love for other people and for God. We are, after all, made in His image, and I’m grateful I’ve had the chance to see that more clearly this month.

– David

 

January 24

Today is the final day for our team on our third island – and our last day of enjoying island life with the Sea Tribe people. We began the day with a special excursion to a city on a nearby island. This included visits to a coffee shop and a Buddhist temple, and (for us ladies) a quick trip to the salon. For about $3, several of us got cream baths:  essentially a heavenly head massage. A thousand times yes.

The afternoon was fairly typical in our home. We enjoyed lunch with our Ibu (Ibu Eti), followed by tea time and a siesta. After that, we had a third rematch of volleyball: Taylor Women vs. The Ibus. Unfortunately, we lost, but we had such a great time regardless.

After our final delicious dinner in our home, Ibu presented us with our traditional Malay outfits for the closing ceremony. All four of us had the exact same matching outfit! The ceremony was long – about two hours – but so much fun. There was drumming, singing, and many dance presentations, including a few from our team. I won’t lie through:  a personal highlight was the surprise our house had kept from the rest of our team. We had a favorite song, Aku Tak Biasa, from late night karaoke with our Ibu. The finale to our evening was the four of us (Lisa, Morgan, Sondang, and I) in our matching outfits, affectionately termed “Wati and Friends”, giving a surprise performance of our new favorite song. SO great. I think Ibu Eti was proud. :)

Our days have been full of laughter, conversation, children, and excessive amounts of delicious seafood. And yet, even though we have had an extra day on this island, it has not felt like enough time. The kindness of these people, especially our Ibu, has been astounding. It breaks my heart to say goodbye…it feels like the connections formed have been strong, and yet I may never see or know what will come of my hopes and prayers for these individuals. And yet we are learning to trust the Lord with the unknowns and are so grateful for the opportunities we have been given.

See you soon!

Felissa a.k.a Felix a.k.a Fitri

 

January 25

At 8:00 this morning our team left our last island to head back to our home base. My house (our host, Gretchen, Grace, and I) woke up early so that we would have time to eat breakfast and spend some time with our family before we said our goodbyes (a lot of picture taking was involved in the goodbyes).

We left our house with a multitude of children from around the village waiting to escort us to the jetty. They had lined up all of our shoes (because they knew which shoes belonged to each of us, of course) while they were waiting for us. As we walked to the dock, I found that my sleeping mat, my water bottle, and a bag of fruit (all of which I had been carrying for about 3 seconds after stepping out the door) were distributed by kids around me so that they could hold my hands.

The jetty was SO FULL of people waiting to see us off. It was hard to leave yet another island full of generous and beautiful people.  It’s amazing to me how quickly we’ve been able to bond with our families and the people on the islands within the space of a few days of living together. Our remaining time at our home base will be spent resting and debriefing as a team before we prepare to head home (back to icy and windy Taylor….)

On each island, our team has been met with such kindness, thoughtfulness, and hospitality–whether it’s kids grabbing our water bottles so we didn’t have to carry them or our ibus packing us extra food for our boat ride back to home base–and we have been filled with an urgency to pray for the Sea Tribe people whose actions so often reflect a Savior they don’t know. Please continue to pray for us as we process our experience and the things that the Lord has challenged us with over this past month.

Love,

Lauren (a.k.a. Citra)

Exploring Ethiopia

 

Hey guys! I hope all of your weeks have gone well and you enjoy your last weekend without us! I’m sure you’re all totally dreading Tuesday when we finally come home… :)

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday have been more relaxed days for most of us. 1st and 2nd graders ended up having exams all week, so no teaching took place except at the kindergarten. There were still some opportunities to continue tutoring–some of our team has really enjoyed that, especially because while we tutor, we are simultaneously building relationships with the kids as well. Throughout the mornings, many things have been going on including proctoring exams, reorganizing and redecorating the library, and working in the garden. The pre-med students on our team had the amazing opportunity to watch some surgeries at the hospital, and a secondary education major got to go to the high school to observe a class (she even got asked to teach halfway through the lesson!). Afternoons have been filled with more time in the library, tutoring, and playing games/sports with the house kids. Something that Project Mercy does well is presenting opportunities according to the interests of the group, which is why we have had such a large array of cool things to do while we’ve been here.

On this past Tuesday night, we had devotionals with the house kids. This time with them was such a blessing to us! We sang some songs and then someone on our team gave a message in English, translated into Amharic, about God’s love. It was a simple message but the meaning and thoughtfulness spoke volumes and I think that the kids understood and received it well, especially the older ones. We will have one more time of devos with the house kids on Saturday night (our last night in Yetebon) as a “goodbye and God bless” type of thing. We are praying for it to be another successful time of sharing with them, and if you would like to join us in praying that with us that would be appreciated!

Tomorrow (Friday) most of our team will go into Butajira again to spend more time at the market and experience more of the different parts of Ethiopia. Sunday and Monday will be spent in Addis Ababa and we’ll be doing more touristy things like shopping, eating, and observing the culture. Sunday night we will stay in a hotel. Monday late afternoon/early evening we will head to the airport and at around 10:30 pm we take off for America! It’s a 17 hour flight, which no one is looking forward to… But knowing whom we are coming home to definitely makes it worth it. Many members of our team have a list of things we can’t wait to eat once we get back to the states. Among the top most-wanted foods are ice cream, cheeseburgers, bacon, and fruit. We’re such Americans.

It’s hard to believe that Sunday morning we will be boarding a bus to leave Yetebon for good. I think between each person on our team, we have pretty much every emotion possible covered. Some are very excited to go home, others are very sad to leave. Whatever the emotions are that we’re feeling I know this for sure: everyone is so grateful. Grateful for the time we have had in Ethiopia (even though some people wish we could stay longer and others wish our trip wasn’t so long, it was still a positive experience for all of us.) Grateful for Project Mercy who has so graciously taken us in as if we are family. Grateful for our leaders, Leon and Renata, for putting in so many hours and making this a successful trip. Grateful to God for guiding us safely halfway across the world. And grateful for YOU and your love, prayer, and support that has been poured out all over us. We cannot thank you enough!

As the end of the trip nears, I am thinking that this post will probably be the last. Thank you all for reading; it’s been a joy to write! Please pray for safe travels over the next couple of days…we will see you all very shortly! To God be ALL the glory.

Keeton Yescott

Pokhara

Pokhara: the resort of Nepal. Talk to any Nepali here and they’ll ask you if you’ve visited this wonderful city. It certainly had a level of expectation to live up to and now we can conclude that it was fully met. The majesty of the mountains surrounded the Pokhara valley and inside it held a large lake like a bowl. Nestled on the edge, our hotel had an unbeatable view of some of the tallest peaks in the world. Pokhara definitely seemed like an escape from the business of Kathmandu. Our time there would turn out to be a necessary time of refreshment and realization for my teammates.

Some times of refreshment came from the hours spent with children. Our teams visited three of Tiny Hand’s children’s homes—Beloved, Grace and Bethany. In each place the children surprised us with their own songs of worship and together we would praise the one true God. Though we poured out energy playing tons of football (soccer) and “down by the banks,” we always left feeling more joy than before. This was most evident after we departed from Tiny Hand’s Dream Center.IMG_2684

The Dream Center is a vision that is reaching completion before our eyes. Two years ago a Taylor team visited the very location we did only to see hopes of where children’s homes would stand. So in honor, our team stood on what seemed like holy ground as we toured two completed children’s homes! For the remainder of the land, we prayed over the location of the future Tiny Hand’s school (which hopes to be breaking ground this spring) and where three other children’s homes would like to reside, along with the vision of a Justice School for college students and housing for future teachers. It was so evident that the prayers of numerous people had collected to this location. The children of these homes brought us so much encouragement we didn’t want to leave.

But our adventures continued through streets of Pokhara. We had opportunities to learn from the Nepali people their own stories and for some, to share the good news of Jesus  with them. On some occasions we were the ones to approach them, but other times children seemed to flock to us (especially to the big guys on our team). At one point we watched a group of young boys climb all over our male teammates in the park. As I watched this it occurred to me how beautiful of a thing we have to offer the world. We have the greatest gift ever given; we have the Holy Spirit of our resurrected Lord Jesus and God and this makes us look radically different in a predominately Hindu and Buddhist culture.IMG_2781

Our team trekked high into the hills one morning to see the sunrise. As the sun peaked over the crests of the mountains to shed light on the city beneath us, we were reminded of the powerful light of our God. He is the lighthouse here in Nepal. He is drawing his people out of darkness into the safety of his presence. My teammates and I are so blessed to be here, to both watch God move and to ask him to move us.

Kamra Lee

A Couple Updates

We entered her house. The floors were nothing but dirt, yet she placed her best mats down so that we could sit. The biggest room in her house was barely large enough to fit our team, but as she stood before us, she said words that will impact us forever, “My house may be small, but my heart is big.”

On Wednesday our team got our first real glimpse of poverty when we met Betty. Betty is married with two kids, a son who wants to be a doctor, and a daughter who is paralyzed on half her body. Even in the midst of her situation, the joy of the Lord flowed out of her. God is using her to be a witness and a testimony in her community.

Betty’s children attend Gethsemane, the learning center at which we worked Wednesday through Friday of last week. Pastor Lenin and Pastora Flora lead this learning center with the belief that God will use the children to redeem the future of Ayacucho and the church. Gethsemane provides one meal Monday through Friday as well as school assistance for the children who live in poor conditions. Currently, they serve sixty kids, but their end goal (and something their church body has been fasting and praying about) is expanding to reach two hundred kids. We had the opportunity to feed the kids lunch and run a Vacation Bible School, as well as purity training for the older kids.

Josh Carp shares his experience at Gethsemane: “It was an opportunity to witness the work that the church is having on the life of the kids, and it was a privilege to come along side that. I was overwhelmed to see their joy and eagerness as they interacted with the Bible and with us.”

“In the purity training, our biggest desire was that the teens would know that God loved them, and they had so much value because of that,” said Ronni Meier. “With that being our foundation, we were able to go more in-depth on topics like identity, self-control, and relationships. It was awesome to see these teens soak up this information, set higher standards for their relationships, and believe that they were truly loved by God.”

Prayer Requests

-health and strength: there is some kind of bug going though our team

-renewed energy as we interact with the kids from the Learning Center called Luz y Vida – our final ministry site.

Love,

The Peru Crew

 

As you can imagine, driving through the mountains can pose multiple challenges.  On Tuesday night, on our last day of farming, we had to take a new route due to a closed bridge.  On the way down our van hit a rock, causing oil to leak from the bottom. God orchestrated His plan perfectly.  The van died after we made it safely to the bottom of the mountain.  We also broke down in front of a river where a car had recently fallen in.  We had the opportunity to push them out, and in return, they ended up helping us further up the mountain. God blessed us with complete safety in this trip.  Praise God!!

Prayer Request

-that the van can be easily repaired and with a minimum cost

Love,

The Peru Crew

SEEING GOD´S GLORY

Dear family, friends, and supporters,

Greetings from the Chaco! As difficult as it is to believe, we are wrapping up our work here and beginning to prepare for a trip back to Asuncion. If I may, I´ll use this space to share a few of my personal reflections of this place.FullSizeRender (15)

I´ll miss the people here more than anything. Like many of my teammates, my prayer leading up to this trip was that the Lord would break my heart and humble me. In my journals before we left I asked God to show me His glory. I anticipated the stress of living in a much different culture (we don´t flush TP here) and seeing people suffer in difficult living situations as some of the things that would cause me to reach that “breaking point” with God. God has been faithful in showing me His glory, but He´s been surprising about it. What has broken me this month isn´t so much the things I mentioned but the wonder and the beauty of the people around me—the locals in Loma Plata, the Toba kids, the missionaries, and my teammates. Christ´s aroma and the fruit of the Spirit abounds: I see peace, hospitality, obedience, laughter, and compassion. I can´t say how thankful and, yes, humbled I am!

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I could write about many characters, but I will share just one short story about my friend Henry. Henry is a 70-something hobby farmer living in here in town, and he likes to be generous. Last week he brought us a goat that he raised and slaughtered. While we were working he came down and shook all of our hands and told us his story. A few days later he came back, smiling and holding a big bowl of chipa (dough+cheese+other good things) that he made with his goat cheese. That aroma of Christ radiated as I talked to him. We laughed about things and I picked up a couple of pointers, and then he asked me how much longer we had in Paraguay. When I told him, he paused, grabbed my hand, and looked me straight in the eye. “If I don´t see you before,” he said, “let´s make sure we meet in heaven.” I said we had a deal, and I´ve been thinking about our appointment ever since

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Thank you all for your concern and prayers for our time here. I think I speak for many of us when I say the prayer that has been over this team is noticeable every day. As we close out a wonderful journey here in the next couple of days, please pray that God´s workers in Loma Plata would be strengthened and encouraged to continue in their labor for Him. Pray that we would leave with as much grace as we have received during our stayIMG_5532.

Thank you,

Michael McLean and Team Paraguay