Friday, June 29, 2012

Impact Mexico ~ Days 9 & 10

Final Days

Tuesday would be our final full day in Texcoco. We are looking forward to getting home but our hearts are obviously heavy for what we have seen and experienced here. Bags are being packed, as we get ready for our last day. Today’s adventure would be a trip to the Marketplace to shop for those things that “we really don’t need but have to buy”. Indeed it is time to go and buy our souvenirs. We travelled to the marketplace by car, then bus, then subway. We got to experience all aspects of Mexico City travel. We were told to be very careful on the subway. In fact we created a circle around the girls so they would not be hassled. We spent around 2-3 hours in the marketplace shopping. Karen and I found two ponchos that we just had to have from Mexico. One is a Steelers poncho and the other is a Raven’s one.  LOL! We got some other things as a reminder of our first mission trip together. In the evening we heard Adrian’s personal testimony as well as his role with Southern Mexico Missions. We closed out the evening meeting by praying over Adrian, Lula, Justin and Tracy. Most of us went into town afterwards for a late night dinner. Upon our return we found electric had gone out. This would last until sometime after we headed back to the United States. We showered and cleaned up the best we could. Thank goodness for the flashlight app on my Smartphone.

      Wednesday was our last breakfast with our hosts. We were on the road and to the airport shortly after 10am. We got to the airport with two hours to go. Checked in and we gave our final goodbyes and hugs to Adrian and Lula. It is really hard to imagine that just ten days ago we did not even know them. Now they are special friends and their ministry will be in our prayers. We leave a part of our hearts back in Mexico.  We got into Dallas Fort Worth a little early so we ended up waiting for our gate. Then it took close to two hours to get through customs and immigration. As I write this we are heading east to Baltimore. The journey is ending but the memories and friendships will remain. Karen and I were blessed to go to Mexico with a great team! I hope that many trips like this will continue with our church and I am praying that this will happen. I am not sure if we will return next year as we are planning to return to Honduras for Jeyelly’s birthday celebration however I do know that God willing we will return back sometime in the future so serve again! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Impact Mexico~ Days 7 & 8

Sunday and Monday

      I am combining these days as it marked the closing of our ministry time as well as a time to process all that we had seen and done.  Sunday morning we got up and headed back to the church building for breakfast. Afterwards we helped get the empty lot next to the building set up for church. Typically the church meets in the small building we have been using. The typical attendance is around 30-35 people I would imagine. However with all of us we would need more space. We also would be doing our final VBS as a children’s program. We basically hung three large tarps over the lot for the service. It would be interesting as business would go on as usual all around us (traffic, buses, shops all operating). We headed back to the hotel to get ready and then off to worship.

     We returned to the church around 1pm and the service was incredible. It opened with several songs being sung. Then families could take turns singing some specials. We got to sing two songs for the congregation. We chose “Blessed be your Name” and “Open the eyes of my Heart”.  At one point we had the congregation sing back to us. On all of my overseas trips I am always moved to tears when (despite our language differences) we can worship and share together our God.  Adrian Sanchez (Field Director/Missionary) would be preaching the message. Sadly I did not get to hear it, as I would be doing children’s church. We taught the salvation message to the kids, had them make salvation bracelets and then played a balloon game with them. They seemed to have a blast doing that. After the service we had a potluck supper and fellowship time with the congregation. It was lots of fun even though we didn’t fully understand each other all of the time. When it came time to go there were a lot of hugs and tears. Over the past four days we had formed relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. After church we went to a mall and hung out at a coffee shop with both our Texcoco and Puebla hosts. True to course around dinner time it poured! The evening was spent in a team meeting and Rudy and Julia (Puebla missionary) stopped by the hotel to say a final goodbye. Julia brought us small gifts to say “Thanks”. The girls all got some jewelry and the guys a little keychain except for me. I got a little dog-stuffed animal. It is cute and a special reminder of our service there.
     Monday was a planned recreational day. At the end of many mission trips there is a day built in to process all that we have experienced. It serves as a bridge for our return back into the real world. Our day was at a park called Las Estacas. It is a beautiful place with an incredible spring fed river. We enjoyed time just experiencing God in a natural surrounding. We had a cookout and just a great time swimming in the river. On a side note on the trip to the park we got to see an active volcano. The trip back to Texcoco was again an experience. It ended up taking us almost four hours to travel 70 miles due to rain. We arrived back home around midnight and quickly crashed.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Impact Mexico Day 6~”God shows up”

      Saturday morning! We actually got to sleep in a little today as breakfast was at ten. We waited to see what the weather would do before we did our community service project. Right as we ended breakfast the sun came out and we decided to proceed with our plan. We returned to the park area that we are holding our VBS in to clean it up and to repaint the basketball court. There is a play area for the kids but it was filled with trash and broken glass. Across the way from that is a shaded area that was also filled with trash. A group of us worked on clearing up both areas. Another group swept the basketball court free of dirt and rain puddles. Once that area was dry we worked on taping off the lines of a full basketball court. Then we worked on getting the entire taped off area painted and looking good! As we worked a few of the children from the area came and joined us. They helped and fellowshipped with us. Most of them are interested in hearing what the English equivalent of a Spanish word is. I have a favorite girl that has been here the past few days named Natalia. She is Mi Amiga!!!  In some ways she reminds me of Jeyelly in Honduras. As we waited for the paint to dry we spent some time taking pictures of the kids and our group.  The afternoon was our big meal and some down time. We also worked on our group song (Jump into the Light) and are also working on preparing for both VBS and church tomorrow. We just found out that they want us to sing three songs during worship as well as teach Sunday school. The Sunday school part will replace our VBS program for that day so we are good to go! 
     So time for VBS-half of us head down to get things ready. The group in the other van is going to make a stop at a medical center as two of our team members are having stomach issues.  Our group gets to the park and begins to peel the masking tape up from the basketball court. The paint had dried and looks great.  However true to form a storm is coming. We get up our two tarps for lesson and crafts but they are quickly blown down with heavy winds. Looks like VBS may have to be cancelled for tonight. However this is the moment that God shows up. The place where we are doing this VBS is in a park surrounded by apartment buildings. One of the neighbors saw what was happening and invited us to use her back patio area, which was partially covered. This meant carrying tables, chairs and tarps through their small apartment and out back. Not to mention having 35-40 kids walk through their home. We got our tarps up to cover the rest of the patio area despite the winds. We then began the lesson with me teaching and Marcos translating for me. The louder I spoke the heavier the rain came. At that point it was actually quite funny. We got the lesson done and then the lady had us all come inside to do the craft. Imagine having all of these kids settle in your home, however God had provided a wonderful woman with an open heart to help us. One neat thing is that for our first lesson which we never taught Karen had crocheted a heart as a prop. We gave that to the lady as a token for showing us her heart. She does go to a church but may now be considering the church that we represent.  Good stuff!  We ended the day sharing a meal and conversation with our host church. A great night of fellowship!!!! 

Impact Mexico~Day 5

Dateline Friday June 22, 2012

     Today was our first full day in Puebla. The morning found several of our team suffering from the “Big D” (that is what we decided to call it). Regardless though we all headed out to breakfast at the church. The church building is similar to a storefront and is small. I would estimate the space at about 50 x 20 feet. It has two roll up steel doors. This would be where we eat most of our meals over the next few days. Breakfast was pancakes! After breakfast we hit a local grocery store for some supplies. Our project for this morning was to go to a local school near the area where we were doing our VBS. At the school dismissal we would be handing out invitations to the VBS. It is an interesting site because many vendors set up outside the school also to sell their food to the kids and parents.
School let out and we handed out all the invitations we had. Several of the kids recognized us from last night and were excited to hang and talk with us. Even after we handed out all of our invitations we hung around for awhile to witness and talk to the children. The afternoon consisted of getting things ready for our VBS and having some rest time.

     Again tonight proved to be an interesting VBS. As we got there it was obvious it was going to pour. We brought several tarps and set up two stations. There were just a few kids but when they saw that we were going on with our program they came out of the woodwork. We managed to get the lesson and craft done despite the weather. The craft was a lunch bag piƱata and we gave the kids gifts that we had brought. Karen made “scrunchies” for the girls and the boys we gave little bracelets. At closing we sang “Jump into the Light” and they returned the song with one of their own. Too much fun was had by all.

     Dinner was back at the church. Note on meals here: Breakfast is usually in the morning upon waking. Lunch is the big meal of the day and is usually around 2pm or so. Dinner is lighter fare and is around 8pm or so. Tonight we had hot dogs and chips. Fairly American fare you would say except these hot dogs had mayonnaise on them and onions and chopped carrots. Interesting to say the least. Today was also Ryan’s birthday. Several times during the day we annoyed him by singing “Happy Birthday” however tonight the church surprised him with a cake!!! Feliz Cumpleanos! The night ended with us having a team meeting and debrief. It is interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts but most of all it is cool to see us grow as a team. I know originally that a team of eleven seemed small but at this point I cannot imagine any more or less. It just seems right and that God has picked the perfect people for this mission.

Impact Mexico~ Day 4

”Satan tries to take control”
     I guess the one thing we really learn on any mission trip is to be flexible. This is especially true in a country like Mexico. It is a totally different culture and time is different here. If I were to subtitle this blog post it would be called “Satan tries to take control” and you will see what I mean a little further along.
    We woke up this morning to a bright sunny day. Everyone was moving a little slower perhaps because of our work the day before or perhaps because we knew we were moving onto Puebla. Anyway before we moved on we had work to do. We managed to get the roof totally done with tarpaper secured to it. We organized a closet/bath area that had so much stuff in it. We actually took everything out and then organized it so that the door could be shut. Finally we finished painting the children’s classroom and clearing out the attic area above it. I think that the people who work with the missionary here were amazed with what we accomplished in a day and half.
     I thought the original plan was to leave around 2:00 and travel to our hotel in Puebla and then be at the park to do VBS by 5:30pm. Well this is where Satan decided to take control. We actually did not get on the road until around 3:30. Should not have been a big deal. We would still be there in time to get to VBS.
Then we encountered an incredible traffic jam. It took us close to two hours to travel less than twenty miles. We were in two passenger vans. At one point a bus decided to cut off both vehicles. It came around the right side of us and moved into the front of the lead van. I mean seriously we were actually out in the other lane of traffic. Trucks coming the other way were about 5 inches from us. It was quite a nerve wrecker but God was in control and we were fine. Adrian actually got out of the lead van and took a picture of the bus license plate and the driver. That seemed to do the trick as he let us back into the lane and stayed well behind us. Anyways we did not get to VBS until close to 7:30pm. They did their own lesson with the kids and we did craft and games. The kids welcomed us and what Satan would have tried to take from us God gave back.
      Afterwards we went to one of the church member’s home for dinner. They have a sidewalk taco stand outside of their home and we were treated to a delicious meal. The cool part of this is that the husband and wife who hosted us are new members of the church. They had happened to come to an outreach VBS and became interested in the church. Two months ago they were baptized as new believers. They so much wanted to do this for us. We ended up getting back to the motel around 10 pm and crashed. One note on this hotel thing. The original plan was for us to stay with church families or the pastor. However due to our number and safety reasons they decided to put us in a hotel. Now this is certainly not a Holiday Inn. It has the barest of necessities and is a little on the rough side. However it is a place to sleep and it is much better than a lot of the places that the local people will sleep in tonight. Tomorrow is our first full day in Puebla and we cannot wait to see what is in store for us.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Impact Mexico~Day 3

Wednesday was a very active work day in which we accomplished quite a lot. We started the morning off going to Adrian's mother's school. She is a teacher there and it is quite a nice school. We got to visit with the high school students. They speak English pretty well and were full of questions. We broke into groups and rotated from table to table having a great time just chilling with them. We even used Google Maps to show them where we were from and where our church is.

Then it was off to work! Basically we had three major projects to tackle. The first was getting the new building under roof. It is two stories high and framing was up. However roof boards needed to be placed so it would be totally under cover. The second project involved going through all of the children's church supplies and organizing them. Tubs and tubs of stuff were gone through, cleaned, labeled and repacked. The final project was cleaning and repainting the children's church room. The entire room was emptied from project two (lots of bugs squashed!) and the walls were scrubbed down. Then the walls and window frames were repainted and made new. The top part of the walls are yellow and the bottom a royal blue. The window frames are also trimmed in blue.

I alternated between project one and two. Spent some time helping to get the boards cut but most of my afternoon was spent on project three. My t-shirt and pants can attest to that. Again God was good. It had poured the night before but we had no rain during the day ( a few short drizzles). Right as we were finishing up it then began to rain. Work completed!

We had dinner out a sandwich shop and enjoyed ice cream! Returning home we got to hear from Gil who is Adrian's grandfather. He is 87 years old and is responsible for close to 300 church plants. He is quite the character and we loved hearing his stories. The Southern Mexico Mission that we are working with is a direct result of his conversion and love of sharing the gospel.

Today we finish up some work and then head off to Puebla for a few days to teach Vacation Bible School. We are not sure what to expect or if we will have internet. I will update when I can. In the meantime please keep us in prayer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Impact Mexico~Day 2

    Well Day Two is in the books- it was part work day and part fun day. The feeling is to get us a little acclimated to the climate and the altitude. We are actually about two miles above sea level so the air is a little thinner. We need to keep hydrated and not over do. We spent most of the morning and part of the afternoon cleaning up around the missionary's yard/church area. We made piles of lumber, concrete, trash, aluminum and more. We also took down one outhouse, filled it in and moved it to a new spot. Also we worked on cleaning and sanitizing some of the children's toys that are used in Sunday school. Overall we got quite a lot accomplished in a short period of time.

     In the afternoon we went to the pyramids and Aztec ruins. The site was amazing and I ended up going about 2/3 of the way up. Karen went to the top and must admit I am quite proud of her. It was incredible seeing the entire site and am glad I can say I saw it. Dinner was at a popular chicken stop in Texcoco called Pollo Fiesta. Incredible food and we were actually able to eat lettuce and tomato!

Tomorrow is a full work day on the property. In the morning we are going to go to a local private school and see some of the kids and talk to them. Work plans call for us to work on cleaning, organizing and painting the children's area. Also we will be working on placing roofing on the addition they have built to the church. Should be a long but fun day~after all that is why we are here.          

Impact Mexico~ Day 1

Well we have made it to Mexico. Yesterday was quite the long day! Up before 6 as we had to meet at church by 6:30am. Headed to the airport and amazingly we were at our gate with no problem and no issues. We had a while to grab breakfast and chill before heading to Dallas-Fort Worth. We had an hour to get to the international gate and grab lunch before our plane left for Mexico. We arrive into Mexico City around 4:30 pm (5:30 on east coast). Took awhile to get through immigration and get our dollars changed to pesos. Adrian Sanchez is our missionary here in Texcoco and his team met us and took our luggage back to their home. We took taxis into the city and took a nice walking tour. We saw the first church that was built here. Sadly on top of some of the Mexican ruins. Then we walked quite a ways to the Latin American Building. This would be the equivalent of the Empire State Building. We went all the way to the top at night and the view was amazing. At this point it was about 9:00 pm and we were getting drained. Adrian managed to talk a transit bus driver into taking the group of us to the bus station and from there we had a 40 minute ride into Texcoco. Arriving after 10 pm we ate a late dinner and totally crashed.  Adrian's home is nice for a mission team. The girls are upstairs in a loft area and the guys are on the floor downstairs. Must admit not a great night sleep but we feel totally on a mission trip. The dogs were barking all night and the roosters started at 2 am. Feels right at home as some of my other trips were the same way. Today is a light day to see some of the sights and do a work project tonight. Thanks to Nicole Chryst for the team picture.....she is blogging also @ Check out her perspective. Blessings!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why Mexico? (T-1 Day) Impact Mexico Mission Trip

So why are we going to Mexico? Funny thing is that it was not in our plans for this year. Those that know me understand that I am a planner. We knew ahead of time that we were going to go to Honduras on another sponsor tour in 2009. We knew we would be taking our girls on a graduation cruise in 2010. We had planned since 2007 to return to Honduras in 2011 on our own and see all of our sponsored children and host Linda's party. This year we knew we were going to attend Creation Northeast on behalf of Compassion at the end of this month. Creation is a Christian musical festival and Compassion always is a sponsor at this event. They have a massive presence and over a thousand children are sponsored. We had planned on working many of the shifts and camping out and of course hear some of our favorite artists. Funny thing happened though~Compassion would not be having a presence there this year. We heard about this earlier this month and were floored. There are valid reasons which we understand but we were left with trying to figure out what to do. Of course there are other festivals around this time that we could attend as part of Compassion. That was one idea. We could just take a vacation to the ocean~another option. However about the same time as we got this news our church announced a mission trip to Mexico. I do not think it required a lot of time for Karen and I to decide that this was our calling for the summer. (We do have a cruise planned in December with Disney) Karen has never been on a mission trip so this would be something special we could share together.  Fork does not have a lot of mission trips so this would be truly special. At the initial meeting there were probably close to 40 people who came for information. We were told that we would be serving through "Southern Mexico Missions"and our focus would be work projects and Vacation Bible School. We went through the application process and were chosen to be part of this team. We are excited to be going, we are looking forward to working with our other team members and most of all being a part of God's plan. In a nutshell we are going to Mexico because it was always His plan and not mine. God Bless and keep us in prayer!!!
(PS-Why the Compassion Hat that is pictured? I had them made for Karen and I as a reminder of what we are called to do and be!)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

T-2 Days (Journal 1) Impact Mexico Mission Trip

      We are now two days away from leaving for Mexico with my church (Fork Christian Church in Kingsville, Md.) on a mission trip. We have been asked to journal throughout the trip and my blog will serve as my personal and public journal. This will be my 3rd real trip into the field ( I am not counting our Sponsor Tours to Honduras with Compassion) and Karen's 1st. I travelled to Mexico in 1998 and then to the Dominican in 2005. Each of those trips were special in their own right. Each of those trips proved to be a blessing in different ways. In 1998 I was recently separated and my trip to Mexico helped to open my eyes to the fact that it really was not "all about me". The trip to the Dominican would truly open my eyes to God's call to help the least of these. It would prove to be the launching point for our trip to Honduras two years later when my eyes were fully opened and my work with Compassion began.

      On this trip there are eleven of us going. Seven women and four men. We will be flying into Mexico City and will be serving in Texcoco and Puebla. We will be doing some work with the missionary down there such as painting and community service. In Puebla we will be presenting a Vacation Bible School for four nights. Most of all we hope to share God's love and be a blessing to those we encounter.

      The first part of this journal we have been asked to outline our hopes and concerns so that when we return we can see how God has worked through this trip. My concerns are obviously that everything goes as we plan. We get there safe with all our stuff ( need I mention we are flying American Airlines). I have heard continuously about safety issues in Mexico which is a concern. I am concerned that what we have organized for VBS may not work as we planned. Other than that I have no other concerns but rather hopes. I am hoping that this trip proves to be one of those "mountain top" experiences, I hope that Karen is blessed on her first trip, I hope that our team comes together in Jesus' name and that we "rock" this trip for His kingdom. I hope that all we do turns out well especially our VBS nights.

     We have been blessed so far by having over 75% of our costs supported by others. I know people are praying. The journey is about to begin. If you scroll down a few posts you can find my introductory post to this trip along with a link to our Facebook page. I will be keeping that page active with snippets from our trip as well as keeping my journal here. I am not sure how much Internet access we will have so bear with me. I will journal but may not be able to post until I get some access. In the meantime please continue to pray for us.