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

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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

Conversations – Poland (1/11/2017)

While most of the team visited the collegium (high school), I along with my teammates Adam, Cara, Isabelle and our missionary partner, Sandy, taught English at two elementary schools yesterday. The first elementary school was one that Sandy had worked with in the past. Each Taylor team member sat down with a small group of fifth and sixth graders to practice conversational English.

I was impressed with their range of vocabulary and their willingness to learn. When they didn’t know a specific word, they would put their heads together to brainstorm or occasionally rush to the dictionary to ensure accuracy. At the end of our time yesterday, they presented funny skits, common Polish songs and in-depth presentations to practice their English and teach us about their culture.

Poland is a largely Catholic nation; many people have a Bible at home, but it sits on a shelf and is seldom read. I was surprised, therefore, when Igor, a boy who is about twelve years old, brought up the Bible during a conversation about veganism. His English was broken and theology may have been a little shaky, but he said he regularly read the Bible. I desperately wanted to ask more and find out if he was my brother in Christ, but the other children grew impatient and drew my attention back toward the English game we were playing.

Please pray that Igor, and the other children will encounter the Lord through his Word. As I reflect on my time with those kids, I can’t help but think of how God used the Bible to radically change my life when I was their age. Like many of them, I went to church and had a Bible at home. However, I didn’t believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior until one Christmas night when I read the nativity story in the Bible for myself. The Christmas lights and decorations are still on display here in Sandomierz and there is even a nativity scene set up in the middle of the town square, yet many of these children have no personal connection with Christ. To them church is just an old building they visit on Sunday.

Today, that same class of children took us on a scavenger hunt around town. The Taylor team members were tasked with reading and simplifying clues to the children. My team jogged around the town, our winter caps bouncing up and down as we raced from one landmark to the next. We saw an ancient cathedral, a restaurant named after an old shoe, and “the eye of the needle”, a small archway that only one person can pass through. Isabelle, the eleven year old daughter of our team leaders, blended right in with the Polish children. She laughed with them and taught them how to make shapes with her string of yarn.

The second elementary school we visited yesterday was new to the ministry; it was the first time a group had visited to teach English. The children were ecstatic to talk with native English speakers. Again, we broke up into groups, played games and talked with the children. At the end of our time, the English teacher said she had never seen the students so engaged. She asked why we had come, what were our intentions? Sandy explained that Taylor University is a faith-based school that sends students all over the world to serve others. Please pray that through out this week and next, we can have more conversations about faith with her. Pray that she—as well as her students—will be curious about our faith and we, as the Bible commands, will be ready to explain the hope we have in Christ.

In Christ,

Cassidy Grom

Making Connections (1/10/17)

Today was an eventful day for the Nepal team! We started by visiting Beauty for Ashes, a company that employs women who have been victims of sex trafficking or who are at high risk. The women work to make jewelry, clothing, and accessories by hand and earn living wages in an environment where they are encouraged to learn how much God loves them no matter what is in their past. Our team had the opportunity to pray over the building and the ministry there. We were filled with joy at the redemptive work God is doing through Beauty for Ashes while remembering the many women who are still enslaved. We are so thankful for the individual lives touched by God already and pray for freedom and salvation for many more.

We were also able to meet with the owner of Café Bethesda and hear his heart for his ministry there. Although the building is still under construction, his vision is that it will be a lighthouse for the nation of Nepal. Just like in the Bible where people would come to Bethesda to seek healing as the angel stirred up the water, his prayer is that his café will be a place where people can feel the presence of God. We prayed over the beginnings of the building and worshipped God for the work He will do, and has already done, in that place.

After lunch we went to two separate children’s homes to hang out with the kids there. They are all taken away from high-risk situations and brought up in a Christian environment with parents who love them like their own kids. This was my favorite part of the day because their smiles and excitement to see us melted my heart! We played games, performed skits, and even sang “Jingle Bells” with them. We prayed for their futures with them before we left.

Finally, we ate dinner in the home of a kind refugee and his family. He told us his story of how he had been persecuted for his faith and had to flee to Nepal. It was incredible to meet a member of the persecuted church in person and hear the harsh realities of what many of our brothers and sisters experience because they are bold enough to proclaim the name “Jesus”. We prayed for him and his family as they continue to seek refuge and thanked God for saving them from the hands of their persecutors.

Although it was a long day, it was an encouraging one to hear how God’s mighty hand is at work here. There may be pain in Nepal, but God is stronger still and we can’t help but worship Him for the joy that only He can bring amidst it all. Thank you all for your continued prayers. Our team is all healthy and learning so much already. Praise God from whom our help comes. He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Praise the Lord!

-Melody

Providing Relief in Greece

Katie called the office today around 3pm our time, 10pm her time.  The team is all healthy and bonding together beautifully.  They are hard workers, willing workers, giving out hope with their smiles, their willingness to work long & hard hours and their attitudes.  Katie & Jessie are so proud of them.

The island has gotten 5-6 more inches of snow (unheard of!!!), so ministry is in Disaster Crisis Relief mode now.  Typically 7 students work from 8pm – 8am; however 4 more students volunteered to accompany them tonight.  Those 4 students will then continue their typical day of 8am – 4pm, joined by 8 fresh students tomorrow morning.  They will work some more as a group, then have dinner/team time and get ready to do it all over again.  They will get time off Thursday evening and all day Friday.

They are mostly helping to repair tents (tears & zippers), handing out tarps and clothes and being a “presence”…hoping to provide a glimmer of hope during a really rough time.  Everyone is cold, damp, & tired (the refugees as well as our team.)  The team got to go out to eat tonight together, which was nice.  The refugees react as we all would—some are grateful, some are grumpy; some are bitter, some quietly accept the help given.  It is a mix of feelings the students are seeing.  One student called the situation “heartbreaking”.  But Katie reiterated time and again how well the team is holding up, helping, loving, sharing themselves in various ways.  They work well together and together they have much to offer the refugees.

Please pray:

  • Health for the team, as it is colder & wetter (and snowier) than they anticipated
  • Grit, perseverance, motivation to keep going, and patience with the process of caring for the refugees
  • Ability to sleep in the down time
  • Katie & Jessie will need to be “moms” sometimes, knowing when & how to speak up for the students & provide some boundaries for them

Continue to lift them up in prayer.  They are doing a good work!

Week One in Peru (1/8/2017)

After a long day of travel and another to adjust to our surroundings, we were very excited to get started ministering to the kids here in Ayacucho. This first week we were blessed to work with the children in the orphanage Casa Luz that our hosts, Pastor Jorge and Mariela, run. In the mornings, we did a variety of VBS-type activities with the kids, including songs, skits, crafts, and games. We focused these activities on the themes of the lost sheep, the sower and the seed, and God’s love and power. Each day the kids grew more animated and involved in the activities, from learning the motions to the songs to putting lots of time into the crafts!

During each of these days, we took a brief break for lunch before returning to Casa Luz to take the kids on an outing. These included trips to get ice cream, go to the park, and go to a sports complex. Almost every outing included a game of soccer, usually featuring team USA vs. team Peru (unfortunately, team USA is currently winless). These outings were great times for us to get to interact with the kids, and we all have appreciated the chance to get to know them. The love, acceptance, and joy that they have displayed have struck us all as an incredible blessing.

Besides ministering to the kids, some of us also had the opportunity to pass out meals to the homeless and elderly in the downtown area. We were able to offer a meal, a hot drink, and tract to each person. This is a ministry that takes place every Friday night, so our hosts knew many of those who were there that night, as well as regulars that weren’t there. All the people that received the food were very appreciative, and it was eye opening to encounter people who really don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

We finished up the week with a church service at our hosts’ church. A few of our team members played and sang with the band, performing songs in both English and Spanish. A few of us were also able to give our testimonies to the congregation. The service was very uplifting, and it was a great way to both end our week and prepare us for the upcoming week. The trip so far has gone very well, and we are excited to work with a different group of kids next week and paint one of the learning centers. We appreciate continued prayers for our health, safety, and ministry.

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Travel to Telunas (1/8/2017)

After over 24 hours of traveling we finally made it to our final destination. It seemed like we used every form of transportation from Taylor vans to planes to boats. Everything so far has gone according to schedule. Our longest flight was from Chicago to Hong Kong, which was just over 15 hours. One team member slept almost the whole flight (our very own “sleeping magician”), while some others were lucky to get 30 minutes of sleep (thank goodness for inflight movies and offline Netflix). We arrived in Singapore at 2 am local time and got a couple hours of sleep in the transit hotel before leaving to catch the ferry. The days of traveling definitely felt long and tiring but we are thankful for safety and a few days of rest before heading out to the first island.  

We arrived in the city for some time to get over jet lag as well as to do some culture and language training before heading to Telunas and then to our first island. Our time consisted of meeting a family who plays a key role in guiding the heart of Telunas, swimming to keep us awake, a crash course in the language, and a scavenger hunt in the mall. The scavenger hunt gave us all the chance to practice our language skills and explore a little bit before leaving the city. Perhaps the most relaxing part of the day was getting a cream bath (hair conditioning treatment complete with a massage) and chatting with the stylists in the salon. We had some team time to keep ourselves awake and prepared for our trip to Telunas. 

It took us about an hour and a half to get to Telunas, but we all enjoyed each other’s company, the view, and the breeze. We were welcomed with cool towels and orange drinks, which just speaks to the hospitality of all of those we meet. We had some time today to relax, swim, and prepare for the days ahead. We would so appreciate prayer against sickness and distraction in the coming days, as well as rest in the presence of God and others.