Mexico #2

Greetings from Cancún!

Our time in Mexico started off with delicious authentic Mexican food and a warm welcome from the Back2Back staff on Saturday. On Sunday we went to a Spanish church service and came back to our volunteer house where we spent the day with teens from the different Back2Back sites. It was a really special day for many reasons, one being it was our teammate Usha’s birthday!

Our Monday was a blast; this was a day that was set aside for learning about the history and culture of Cancún, and bonding with our team!  We spent the day exploring the Talum ruins, and at a resort where we got our fill of the sun and ocean.  We all felt unified after this fun day of new experiences and laughter together.

Today was a really sweet day. It started off with our regular individual devotional time and small group time which have both proved to be impactful for our hearts and understanding of God’s faithfulness. We traveled to the Bon Fil site where we all helped prepare for the upcoming VBS that we are putting on Wednesday through Friday. After finishing prep, we traveled to the Back2Back site at Tres Reyes where we got to meet families who are involved in the ‘Strong Families’ program. We were able to purchase some products from the moms at their ‘Mom’s Market’ which will provide support for their families. After that, we got to eat family style dinner with the many families, and then had the chance to connect with the children through play.

These past few days of bonding and learning have been impactful to our team as a whole. Believe it our not, our Spanish skills are slowly increasing. We are having a great time in Cancún, and loving our new experiences, even if they require us being challenged.

Amor y Abrazos,

Alyssa, Jadyn and Team Mexico

Please keep praying!

Mexico 2

Daytona #3

Hey y’all, Peter here.

After Daytona last year, I left with a lot of negative views about the homeless. It always felt like I was being manipulated and told lies to try and get something out of me. Quite frankly, I came back this year wanting to avoid talking to the homeless for the most part because of bitter taste left in my mouth from last year. However, God clearly has other plans.

Throughout these past two days in Daytona I have had multiple conversations with the homeless that have completely wrecked my previous judgments about them. During a conversation with a man named Tim, I was amazed by how genuine and honest he was with me about everything. He wanted nothing from us but to just sit, talk, and laugh. He was incredibly grateful to simply have our company and talk about faith. I walked away from him feeling honored and blessed to share that time with him.

On a different note, I found three guys that I talked to throughout the week last year on the beach. Their names are Micah, Brendan, and Amelio. Please pray for their hearts to be softened and receptive to God’s Truth as I plan on going back to talk with them throughout this week. It was incredibly encouraging to see them again, our God is at work here!

Peter Linn

Daytona #2

Today we went out to the beach excited and energized prepared to see old friends at Oceanview and meet new friends on the beach. Much to our disappointment, though, clouds were covering the beach and rain was streaming down. While sitting under a pavilion waiting for the rain to stop, a friend from Oceanview named Charlie told us that one of our good friends named James Lewis (pictured below) had passed away from a stroke. This was not easy for many returning team members, as James Lewis has been considered family for many years to them. Why God? Why is this how we are starting out the week?

As the rain continued in and out, we played volleyball, went on walks and handed out sodas to those who came by our spot on the beach. Finally we decided to call it quits on the beach and return to the hotel to regroup. From there, different groups went to the boardwalk, Starbucks, and the beach in front of our hotel.

Starbucks is a place that is very familiar to me [Natalie]. Thinking about evangelizing in such a familiar place made me nervous. Izzy, Ethan and I knew that it would be a place where people had a routine, structure, and things to do. Outside on the porch, Izzy started talking to this family of three. Conversation grew and over an hour went by. We touched on the topic that we were Christians and from a school that has many limitations on partying, and we have to make our own fun. This propelled the conversation down why we are not partying down here in Daytona. Meanwhile, a homeless man named Robert interrupted us. He asked if we would like to pray with him. “Hey are you guys praying? Cause it looks like your group was praying, and I want to be a prayer warrior. I don’t normally do this. I think God told me to come pray with you.” He asked us for prayer requests and we joined hands… all 7 of us at a Starbucks! After he prayed, I asked to pray for him. He made it clear that he did not want prayer for himself, but tearfully asked for his sister. He left with tears in his eyes, but he was clearly overjoyed by the spirit (and a fresh cup of coffee ;)). My teammates and I were overcome with such encouragement. Robert seemed sincere in his desire to pray for us. Little did we know that the wife of the family we first started talking to was a Jehovah’s Witness. She told us she was encouraged in her own faith and wanted to pray for us.

Overall, it was a long day but the Lord still used the most unexpected change of events for His good. Looking forward to what the rest of the week entails!

Natalie Rupp

(Our Prayer Wall)                              (Our friend, James)

Peru #1

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We left Taylor around 5am Saturday morning. Roughly 24 hours later, we woke up on the floor of the Lima Airport. What an adventure we’ve had! Our travels have taken us out of Indiana snow storm into the warm Miami heat, then to the coast of Peru. In Lima, we met our translators and our VisionTrust partners, then rushed off to check our bags and get on another flight to Ayacucho.

Following a long day of traveling, we finally landed in Ayacucho this morning (Sunday). Bleary-eyed, we walked out of the plane in awe of God’s impressive creation which surrounded us with mountain ranges and smoky haze. We were quickly welcomed with open arms by the Peru VisionTrust staff and driven to our home for the next week. After a brief time of refreshment and rest, we were shuttled to the church where, again, hospitality and love was the overwhelming theme. Worshipping alongside our Peruvian brothers and sisters in Christ brought joy and unity, despite the language barrier that existed for many of us. We were overwhelmed by the kind words, blessings, and hugs which were showered on us as we left the building.

After a delicious lunch and another brief time of rest, we then traveled to Casa de Luz, the orphanage run by VisionTrust. Walking into Casa de Luz this afternoon, all of us were excited to hang out with the children, not expecting the harsh truth that encompasses their little lives. Entering into the house, we were introduced to five beautiful faces eager to play and love. Through fútbol and talking with the staff, we enjoyed getting to know the heart and mission of Casa de Luz. After a time of play, we returned to our home where we enjoyed incredible food, prepared for the next day, and crashed!

Please join us in praying alongside the VisionTrust staff as they are in need of land to build a bigger facility for Casa Luz and that the Lord would continue to provide consistency for the children who don’t have family. Also, pray that the Lord would continue to bless us with energy and good health. We love you all!

The Peru Team!

 

Houston #1

It has been a little over 24 hours now since we arrived in Houston, and we are loving every minute. Our drive was pleasant and safe, filled with laughter, games, and good conversations as we really began to get to know one another. Along the way, we also had the privilege of meeting a couple of people who really encouraged us in our efforts this Spring Break.

During a stop at for dinner at Panera in Illinois, one of our bus drivers was approached by a man about our bus, bearing a cross, a giant image of the American flag, and the words, “In God We Trust.” Our bus driver proceeded to tell this man, Bill, where we were from and that we were planning to do hurricane relief work in Texas. Oddly enough, Bill told our bus driver that he was from Texas and really appreciated what we were going to do. Then, God laid some words on Bill’s heart that he ended up sharing with our whole team. He reminded us that no matter what we are doing or where we are, we should always be ready to share the gospel with whomever we meet. He encouraged us that what we would be doing was an important opportunity to live out the love of God. We were so touched that God spoke to us through a complete stranger.

The next morning we were blessed by the hospitality of one of our own leaders’ parents (Lauren Drogo). In Little Rock, Arkansas we were served a delicious breakfast and were taught the word of God by Lauren’s dad. This couple was and is such a beautiful example of being used by God in an untraditional ministry seetting, such as running a restaurant. They use the bistro as a bridge to share the gospel with those they came in contact with. He stressed the helplessness of humanity and the way that we must rely on God to be filled. One verse that was read was John 15:5, which says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” This verse was such a great reminder of how little of an impact we as people can have on others and the world if we do not rely on God to be our help and strength.

Since our arrival in Houston yesterday, our team has been overwhelmed by the gracious hospitality of our hosts. Fuller Center and several local churches have welcomed us with comfortable housing, a building to hang out in, and plenty of delicious Texas barbeque. As we have driven some of the suburban streets of Houston and talked to some local men and women, it is clear that the effects of Hurricane Harvey are far from gone. It is still common to see a house with large piles of drywall and wood in the front yards, remnants of the hurricane.  The first dinner we had yesterday was made by a man who was about to open a barbeque restaurant just a few days after Harvey hit. The rain flooded his restaurant building and ruined all of his new facilities. Now more than 6 months later, this man has still not been able to open his restaurant but gives his food to volunteers and those in need. Stories like this are not rare among the residents of Houston. Though the hurricane destroyed a lot, it also brought a city together.

Today was our first day serving with Fuller Center for Housing, and we were satisfied but tired after our day of work.  Our group was split into two teams, working on two different housing sites. One team worked on the house of a sweet woman and her daughter that was in some of its finishing stages. The two had been taken to safety from their home by boat during the hurricane after having received 51 inches of rain in a matter of two days. This team washed, caulked, and painted around windows, unloaded cabinetry, cut baseboards, and worked on flooring a bathroom. The flooring proved to be quite the challenge. The other team worked on the house of an older couple who woke up to deep water surrounding their bed during the hurricane. This couple also had to be taken by boat to higher ground. The team installed and painted trim on the house as well as several doors. All in all, our teams were delighted to have used power tools and nail guns without any injuries today.

We are looking forward to working more with Fuller Center this week and getting to know the families who will come back to their homes that we are working on. Please pray that we may be safe in our construction endeavors, stay hydrated in the heat, and may be flowing with the desire to serve and love as Jesus did.

Thank you for your support!

Claire Rush

Nicaragua #1

Nicaragua has my heart. We left the Indiana snow for the warm hearts and weather of Nicaragua. After our long travel all of Saturday, Sunday was a day full of culture and learning. Sunday was packed with visiting a local church, a local potter, an artisan’s market, and eating amazing food. Our team learned and are continually learning about the beauty of this culture.

I believe I can speak for nearly our whole team by saying our visit to the potter’s house was a blessing for us all. The Potter walked us through the process he and his family takes in making pottery. This process is not easy, sometimes it looks like failure, but is worth while. The talk was interwoven with an extended metaphor of God being the potter and we are his creation. In one of his metaphors he used two pots. One of these pots I was holding. It was freshly molded and soft. The other pot he was holding was further along in the process. He was picking off the imperfections and took a piece of my pot to fix the imperfections of the other one. There are times in community where we must give of ourselves to strengthen another. This part of the process can be humbling but needed. As we are here, I hope some of us are being picked of imperfections while others are being picked to help a brother or sister. We left challenged to live better in community with God, ourselves, and others. Some of us also left with some of his original pieces to bring back to the states.

Monday, was our first day of placements in our different sites. One of the beauties of this trip is that we are split into smaller teams in different ministry sites.  The different teams are agriculture, microfinance, health care, education, women’s social work, and sports ministry. We can see how Student’s International meets the variety of needs within the larger community of Masaya. We are all doing drastically different tasks for the community from checking vitals, teaching kids, to playing sports. As this week continues I am excited to hear more stories from my own site and others. God is moving gloriously. I wish everyone could take part to see.

-Kristina Rivera