Over and Out.

After two days of traveling, we were able to make it back home safely. After leaving SOS, the team traveled to Nashville, where we had dinner and then were able to explore the Grand Ole Opry hotel. Getting back on the road, we traveled to Bowling Green, KY and stayed the night in a hotel. The next morning, we woke up and traveled to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. It was amazing to see how God’s majesty extends even far below the surface of the earth. After a two hour tour, we got back into the vans and made our way back to Upland.

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Overall, the trip was great! Working together and living life together constantly for ten days causes friendships to form in ways that aren’t otherwise possible. It was wonderful being a part of a team who loved to laugh, loved to learn, and loved to work.

A quick note to the parents of the students on this trip: thank you so much for enabling their participation in this service trip. I know it’s difficult to have your family away from you, especially on Easter. Thank you also for raising diligent children who were able to work so hard on the roofs this week. Roofing is hard work and this team was amazing at it.

And a word to those who offered prayer support throughout this journey: Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Prayer is a wonderful, powerful tool we are given by the Lord to use and I fully believe this trip would not have been what it was if you hadn’t been praying for us.

Throughout the week, this blog has offered you snapshots of stories about our mission trip to Memphis, Tennessee. Fortunately, there is so much more. In fact, there are 19 sets of stories represented by the members of this team. We’re all still processing the trip and sometimes we need someone to process with. If you could, take the time to hear the stories we have to share. God and His unfathomable grace were at work this week- ask us about it!

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Thanks for reading our blog!

From our hearts to yours,

Team Memphis

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“We are not bringing Christ to poor communities. He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world, sustaining them ‘by His powerful word.'” –When Helping Hurts, p. 60

“You cannot live the way you were meant to as a human being without Jesus Christ”…. “Sometimes we’re tempted to think how God is useful instead of thinking how God is beautiful.” -Thursday night chapel at SOS

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Romans 5:20

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Final Thoughts

(This blog post was written by Taylor Murray. She is a Senior Bio major, and she has a knack for finding colorful plastic eggs on playgrounds.)

Where do I even begin…it’s been quite the adventure we have had this past week serving at Shepherd.  From witnessing the heartbreaking poverty of Indy to being filled with the hope expressed by those of the community, God has been working and moving in each of our hearts.

While I could sit here and write about everything God has challenged me in and taught me (in which case you would be sitting here for hours), I will share three things that greatly impacted me.  First, I was challenged through the Poverty 101 class that we took while at Shepherd.  It widened my gaze of the idea of poverty, and helped me to see that poverty isn’t just an issue of finance.  Rather, poverty involves many other aspects such as relationships, self advocacy, support groups, physical health, and spirituality.  Being able to understand this allowed me to better grasp how poverty looks different for each person.  It also gave me a better idea on how to interact with someone who may be of a different background than myself.

     Secondly, I was impacted by the hope I felt.  I remember attending the Celebration Service on Sunday, where people were given a chance to celebrate what God had been doing in their lives.  And can I just say when I say the word celebrate…I mean CELEBRATE! These people know how to praise God!  I specifically remember one lady who shared how her daughter was stabbed twice.  I know my first reaction to that would have been one of panic and anxiety, but her response blew me away.  She had such a thankful heart that the situation wasn’t worse than it was.  She knew that worrying would only make matters worse, so she decided to cling to the hope of Christ and pray.  Wow!  What a powerful faith!  It was such a beautiful reminder of the hope that God gives us if we are willing to recognize it in the midst of our trials.
     Thirdly, I’ve been learning a lot about what it means to see others through the lens of Christ rather than the lens of the world. I can recall numerous times throughout the week where God has challenged me in this.  For example, when we met Lavert on the steps of the library, I instantly formed thoughts about him: “homeless, alcoholic, drug addict, dirty.”  Yet, as I made this mental list God quickly redirected my thoughts to align with His.  Those labels that I had so quickly slapped on Lavert transformed into words such as: “loved, brother in Christ, made in HIS image, washed clean in His blood, worth dying for.”  I realized that making those initial assumptions had drastically clouded my vision of how God sees Lavert.  In Samuel 16:7 the Lord says to Samuel, “For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  I had been doing just that; I had been looking at what I saw on the outside rather than focusing on the goodness of Lavert’s heart.
     In conclusion, I think I can speak for the team in saying that the Lord has not only opened and changed our perspectives, but He has also strengthened our relationships with Him as a result.  Our time at Shepherd allowed us to be a part of the work that God was already doing in a way that transformed and molded our hearts.
     So. I guess this is it. Thank you for your prayers and financial support. We will never forget how we saw God this week. He is good all the time! We would love if you continued praying for our transition back into Taylor life. With all of the craziness may we never forget the lessons we have learned this week. Also, please ask the members of our groups to talk more about the trip. We were only able to share a few stories on the blog, and I feel like a lifetime of experiences were had. 

Back Home

Just a quick entry to let you know we have arrived back safely to Taylor University!

It was an amazing experience, with remarkable opportunity for growth; and during the next few weeks we will each be processing what God has done in and through us.

Continue to pray for the people we met and those who observed us….that God would continue to work in each life we encountered.

Thanks so much for your prayer and support!

The Daytona Team

And we outta here!

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Adios Memphis! The team is on our way to Bowling Green, KY to stay the night at a hotel. We just rolled out of the SOS parking lot. Before leaving, a minor acts of water terrorism ensued. Several shirts did not make it out dry. On our way to KY, we will be stopping in Nashville, TN to eat somewhere. Prayers for same travels please.

Much Love,

Team Memphis

Easter Sunday Team Photo

Easter Sunday Team Photo before church

Relaxing and Reflecting

Today is our last day in the Domincan Republic. We’re spending the weekend at Ranchos dos Rios in Jarabacoa debriefing and reflecting on the past week.

The past week has been full of people, food, adventure, and God. We have seen how God is using Students International to show love to the people in Jarabacoa. He is doing big things!

Tuesday, Wedenesday, and Thursday we all went to our sites like normal. Each site is a different experience and we all have our own stories to tell. At our sites we all have the opportunity to experience the DR culture and lifestyle. The people in Jarabacoa are very laidback, very warm, and very hospitable. It seemed as though everyone was friends with everyone. Everyone’s door is always open and it’s perfectly fine for anyone to walk in without an invitation. They are always greeted and welcomed.
The people in Jarabacoa also live very simply. The sites where we worked were in parts of the city that are very impoverished. They don’t have much, but they have everything they need. They’re content, work hard, and don’t ask for more. They grow and cook all their own food (and it is delicious). They wash their dishes with only the small light of a few candles. The kids know how to play outside with each other. They play every sport imaginable, climb anything they can get a grip on, play all kinds of card games or dominoes, and some of them are incredible with a hacky sack. They have so much fun with each other and they’re so happy. Amy, one of our team leaders, asked the question, “What is poverty?” These people have everything they need. They aren’t seeking for something newer, better, or faster. They’re content with what they have. They have friends and family. They have fun with each other and help each other. Their hearts are full.
Is that poverty?

Our sites closed for Good Friday and we spent that day doing some short hikes and visiting a couple waterfalls. We left Students International Saturday morning and the rest of the weekend we get to spend relaxing by the pool and getting some sunburn.

It’s different celebrating Easter in the DR. They celebrate the whole week (Semana Santo, which means Holy Week). Some schools aren’t in session and many people are off work. It’s interesting though because for some people this is a holiday that is used for drinking and partying. For others, they truly celebrate Christ’s death and His resurrection. At the education site in Mata Gorda, we provided coloring pages for the kids. One of the pictures was an Easter egg. The kids had no idea why they were coloring an egg. Eggs, bunnies, and candy aren’t part of the Easter celebration here. They celebrate what Easter is really about- Christ, His death, and His resurrection.

We have had an incredible time in Jarabacoa. These updates have only been able to provide a taste of what we’ve experienced. Look for pictures on Facebook and ask us about our experience and what we learned. We’d love to talk about it.

Thank you for your prayers! We ask for continued prayers as we pack up and head to the airport at 4am.

Happy Easter! He is risen!

He is Risen! (and the sun is still shinning)

imageGreetings from Mexico!

We have had a packed few days! We finished up our work with Back2Back and loved our time there. We spent the last couple of days at different organizations in Cuna Maya and Bonfiel where we did more construction work and played with lots and lots of children. We have spent a lot of time reflecting as a team about the work God is doing here in Mexico and we are so thankful we got to play a part in His mission.

On Friday, we left back2back and went to the hotel where we are staying. After a lot of confusion and mix up, we finally had rooms and headed to the beach. Yesterday, we spent the day exploring Chichen Itza, a Mayan ruin, one of the 7 wonders of the world! It was amazing and we had so much fun together. Today, we are celebrating Easter on the beach (can’t complain, right?) and it is also Chelsea’s birthday today! Yay!

We head out tomorrow around dinner time and will be back in Indiana around midnight. We can’t believe our trip is coming to an end! Thank you all, again, for all of your support and prayers! We can’t wait to share our experiences with you! Please pray for safe travels and good health as we begin our journey back home to the good old US of A.

We will try to bring back some nice weather for you all!

See you soon!

Lauryn & Chelsea

Saturday (Day 8)

Hello from Dearborn! We are not mentally, physically, or spiritually ready to leave this place. Kidding, kind of. We have all learned a ton about how to love those who are different from us. Today consisted of another work day at our friend’s house. We were able to finish painting the basement and moved furniture into it. Now the size of the house has doubled. A Taylor student who lives near Dearborn invited us to her house for dinner. It was quite refreshing to share our experiences with people who did not live with us all week as well as eat a home-cooked meal. Tomorrow, we will go to our final service at DECC. Some of us will share about our experiences at the church, and others will participate in worship. Then, we will spend time at Johnny (one of our contacts)’s house for the rest of the day and watch the first episode of the A.D. mini-series in the evening. Continue to pray that we will be able to process everything that we have learned this week as well as enjoy our last few days together. Thanks for reading!