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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Final thoughts about Mexico

It's hard to believe, but the last day of our Mission Trip is here.  After being immersed in life in Mexico, it will be interesting to go back home.  I wonder how all of us will be changed.  I know that as a group, we started as 11 people who didn't really know each other.  Although certainly brothers and sisters in Christ always, we were perfect strangers to each other in most ways.  I think we will all agree with 100% certainty that we are strangers no more ... friends for life that share a unique bond.  Not only did we work together in so many ways, we shared more than usual with each other ... LOL.

I was personally able to get to know each one of my teammates, and for that I am truly thankful.  Although I know we will go back to our separate lives, we will always share the special bond of this trip together.  We all grew and changed, and helped each other do it.  We shared God's love in real, tangible ways with people who didn't know Him.  We planted seeds in two different cities and connected with people despite a language barrier.

We also made new friends in a different country and saw a beautifully different way of life ... although more difficult in many ways, it's a simpler life where God is the center.  Where family and friends come first.  Where strangers are not forgotten and people make time for each other.  Where relationships are more important than the most recent DVR or Facebook status update.  My prayer for myself is that I can emulate a life more like that - where I walk humbly with Jesus and have time for Him, my family and friends.

This trip has definitely left me with much to think about.  There are many things that can suck up my time and take away from Jesus and relationships ... the computer is definitely the main source ... Facebook, blogging, checking in with my bloggy friends, editing, work, etc.  In many ways, the computer is just a thing that fills up my time, making other more important things take a back seat.  The computer competes with my time for Jesus.  Although I always knew that to an extent, it was kind of right in my face in Mexico.  Part of the problem is that I do, in fact, need the computer for some things.  But there are many, many things I don't need it for.  I need to try and find a balance and this trip away has made me see that even more.  I will definitely not stop blogging ... but there must be a happy medium somewhere.  Much to think about for sure.  Now off the blog to go bake cookies with Angel!

Monday, June 25, 2012

God's Beauty

We saw this active volcano, called Popocatépetl, on the way to Las Estacas.  It's in Central Mexico and spans the states of Puebla, Mexico and Morelos.  It is breathtakingly beautiful.  As we were driving, I kept getting better views of it but unfortunately, I was only able to take the shots from a moving car, through the window.  So not bad considering, 1. I don't do landscapes, and 2. I was in a moving car shooting through a window.  LOL.  I think I may print this and frame it for the guest bedroom ... as a visual reminder of our trip to Mexico and our time together.  Love you Fork Mission Trip peeps!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Worship in Puebla

Today was easily one of my favorite days of the trip.  It's interesting because we weren't "technically" working except for when some of the group left the service for VBS during Adrian's sermon ... but this day was definitely a big highlight for me.  Although we couldn't understand a lot of what was being said, sung, or prayed, we all were praising our One True God, together.  The language barrier didn't matter ... we were all brothers and sisters in Christ, praising Him together.  It was beautiful.

We sang "Lord I Lift Your Name On High" together first ... they sang in Spanish, us in English ... it was kind of like a round but with 2 different languages.  So very moving.

Yesterday, Rudy asked us to sing 2-3 songs for the congregation during the service.  LOL.  None of us have ever sung together and I think it's safe to say that most of us are not singers.  Yikes!  We embraced the opportunity to praise God in this way though, and we picked "Blessed Be Your Name" and "Open The Eyes Of My Heart."  They were both songs all of us felt we could sing easily.  (Interestingly, Fork also sang "Open The Eyes Of My Heart" today too!)  I handed my camera over to Adrian to capture a few moments, and he went a little snap happy, LOL.  Thank you 2nd shooter!!

During the service, several families and individuals came up to the front to sing "specialities" (I think) ... solos in front of the congregation.  I so wish I knew what they were singing!

Rudy and his family sang 2 songs together (which I videoed, but I figured I wouldn't bore you with too many videos on the blog).  After that, the whole congregation got up and sang too - I did put that one below ... I just love their adoration as they praise God.  They don't need a church building or even a place without lots of distractions around ... they can praise God anywhere.  I tried to video the whole area while they were singing so you can get a feel for the atmosphere.  In the background, there are people running businesses, cars passing by, trucks backfiring, stray dogs running around and barking, chickens crossing the road (that seriously did happen), bunnies doing their business in the cages behind us, and just general noise of a busy street.  If you have ADHD (or even if you don't), you can easily see it can be sensory overload.  It does not matter here though, they showed me that people of God can gather anywhere to praise Him ... no fancy church building required.

Adrian delivered the sermon and a nice woman who helps with the church came over to translate for us.  We were able to get the general idea of the message, which was really great because we didn't think we'd be able to understand what he was saying.  During this time, about half of our group took the kids into the church building for VBS.  I don't have any pictures of that, although I'm sure there are many floating around out there!

After church, the congregation served a prepared pot luck meal and we all sat around and fellowshipped.  The language barrier just flat out didn't matter.  This again, was one of my favorite parts of our trip.  Just being with other believers in another country with another language ... seriously, it was awesome.  The guitar player from the church service is 13 years old and he totally rocks.  He and Barb played guitar together during lunch ... I could have listened all day!

Here are two videos from that time also - "Open The Eyes Of My Heart" and "Lord I Lift Your Name On High," both in Spanish.  Coolness.  It is noisy in the background and yes, those are bunnies behind him, so you do have to concentrate to listen :-)

Iglesia de Christo

I can't remember whether I've mentioned this or not, but we've been enjoying all of our meals (except for the first one) here at the church building.  It's a small space they are currently renting that is really just one room ... amazing how much God can do with so little, isn't it?

After breakfast on Sunday, we helped get everything set up for church.  Another storm was threatening the service, so we helped put tarps up outside of the church.  I tried to take some pictures so everyone could get a feel for the area ... it's in the middle of other shops and businesses but WOW, the mountains in the background are breathtaking!

As I was taking some shots of the tarps going up, I couldn't help but think of a "gringo assembly line" ... LOL.  Cracked me up.

I don't know if you can tell, but in the background, on the rubble pile, there is a naked baby doll.  LOL.  It was there during the whole service and totally cracked us up!  We made several jokes about that one :-)

These bunny rabbits were in cages behind where the service was held ... they stunk.  LOL.  And NO, they are not pets.  There were significantly less bunnies in the cages today than the first day we visited.  Yum.

These church kids were playing in the background as the tarps were going up.  I still don't know who their parents are but ohmygoodness, I wanted to eat them up.  Cuteness overload for sure!  I had some fun playing with them and snapping pictures ... oh they were lovely!

After the tarps were up, it seemed only appropriate to play jump rope, right?  LOL.  Who says work can't be fun?  I think Katie was a bit more gracious than Adrian though :-)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

VBS Day 3 in a monsoon

Our third VBS evening got interesting.  First, Adrian took a few of us to the doctor because of sickness (I'll just be up front - several of us had diarrhea for multiple days, me included.  LOL).  We got there a little late and were welcomed by torrential downpours.  The half of our group that was there on time had tried twice to put up the tarps on the basketball court, and the wind quickly knocked them down both times.

Seeing that the VBS group was struggling, one of the local families in the apartment complex opened up her home to ALL of the kids and our entire VBS group.  I'm sad I missed this happening ... what an amazing act of serving, loving others as Jesus loves us.  Our group was able to get tarps up in her backyard patio but the rain was deafeningly loud.  The louder Chuck and Marcos talked, the louder the rain came.  There were a few of us (myself included) that just couldn't stop laughing.  No matter what we tried to do, the rain just wasn't having any of it.  We were all drenched and Marcos even managed to baptize Lisa (joking) with the rainwater coming off of the tarps as he tried to drain it.  Fortunately we all were in such good spirits (the kids included!) ... it was absolutely comical though.  For you to really get what it was like, please watch this video (taken on Ryan's iPhone) ... it was nuts!

Here are a few pictures I was able to hijack from other cameras ... it was raining so hard by the time our group got there that I just didn't want to chance taking my camera or my phone inside when I made a run for it.  LOL.

When we realized that VBS outside in a monsoon (ok, not really but it SURE seemed like that) wasn't working, the kind family opened their living room to all of us.  And there were a lot of us ... especially for the size of the room.  But they graciously and lovingly allowed us to use their home as needed ... it was really a beautiful moment despite us being cold and wet.  (Yes, that's a terrible picture of me, but I wanted to show how wet we were!)

After an abbreviated VBS lesson and craft, we sang a few songs - we sang ours in English and the kids sang their song in Spanish.  We LOVED being serenaded to.  Here's another quick iPhone video (thanks Ryan) of the kids singing to us ... please watch it, they are so sweet!

After that, we said goodbyes to the kids.  It was bittersweet because we all wished for more time with them.  We are doing a VBS on Sunday also, but it's during the sermon at church and many of the children we've been seeing won't be there.  I know we all latched onto a few kids that touched us ... I'll always remember their little faces and their big smiles as they tried desperately to communicate with us.  Oh to see them try to talk in English as we tried to talk in Spanish ... it was so sweet.  Here are a couple (really bad) iPhone pics of me with 2 of the girls - the first was one that really touched me - she was so vibrant and had a personality that just could not be ignored!  LOL.

And finally, here's a quick iPhone shot of the finished basketball court that we painted earlier in the day, albeit terribly wet.  We've already heard that Rudy (the Evangelist in Puebla) has gotten comments and questions from apartment families about why we painted it.  They were convinced we were part of a political movement.  LOL.  When he told them that we were brethren of the church and were there to work out of our own free will because we wanted to do something nice and share God's love, they were shocked and amazed.  Hopefully Rudy will be able to capitalize on their shock and have some of them join him at church :-)

Tomorrow, we worship with Rudy's church in Puebla.  We are all SO excited.  Adrian is delivering the sermon and our group is singing in front of the congregation ... LOL.  We have never sung together, so it should be interesting ... but we are so looking forward to praising God with them, even if we aren't a polished choir :-)

Work Day in Puebla

When we were told we were going to paint lines on the basketball court, I was envisioning some fandangled machine that we'd walk along the lines and it would just do the job for us.  I was definitely not envisioning sweeping the court and trying to get the leftover rainwater to dry, taping off both sides of the lines, and painting the lines by hand with paintbrushes.  LOL.  And believe it or not, it was actually hot outside - good for drying the water up, not good for us keeping cool.  We did really well though, and used a lot of TEAMWORK to get the job done.  We even had some time to hang out with the local kids in the apartment complex and take some pictures together.  It was a really fun morning/afternoon :-)