Day Eight

Day Eight

Today, we spent our last day in Mexico. We began the day early with a delicious breakfast, and then we headed across the border into Reynosa. The entire team went to the work site to finish painting the house. With everyone painting, the job was quickly finished. The team then gathered with Roy and Rebecca, the missionaries who led this construction project, to dedicate the house. Unfortunately, the lady who will be living in the house was not able to be there because she was at work. We were able to record a video greeting telling her that this is not from us, but from God. We then prayed as a group, dedicating the house to the Lord.After the dedication, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends, first at the worksite. The men on the team prayed over two young boys, José and Raúl, whom they had grown close to working on the house. This was powerful to witness. Join us in praying that these boys will continue on the right path. We drove on the bumpy roads back to the mission house for lunch. We then walked the street that the mission house is on to pass out the last of our donations and say goodbye. In three short days in Reynosa, we got to know the kids, making this goodbye difficult.

After leaving Reynosa, we headed to Progreso, another Mexican border town. We split into groups for shopping. It was a great cultural experience as we had the chance to barter with the street vendors.

After an afternoon of shopping, we headed back across the border to McAllen. We had some free time before dinner when we got back. Some people napped, hung out, or did last-minute preparations for The Show.

We had a special dinner with the youth group and other church members. Immediately following dinner was a Tyner team tradition called ‘The Show.’ It’s not necessarily a talent show, but some acts do showcase real talent. Everyone on the team did something, from singing to eating to reciting the alphabet backwards. We were honored to have performances by some missionary kids as well as by the pastor. The church had prepared something special for us, too. They presented each team member with a bookmark and t-shirt. We were very thankful for this gift.

Unfortunately, the Tyners had to go to urgent care soon after The Show as Stan was very sick. The doctors quickly diagnosed him with pneumonia and he is on the mend now. Please pray for his complete recovery.

After The Show the team enjoyed time together. We spent time laughing and debriefing the day and trip as a whole. We have had a wonderful time together developing relationships with each other and the wonderful people in McAllen. 

-Emilee Murphy

“Queres Jugar Conmigo?”

First off, we want to apologize to all the families that have been panicking because we have not been able to post blogs this week. We have not had very good wife in the past week, so we haven’t had the opportunity to post. But we are okay. No one has gotten terribly sick, and our hearts are full.

While debriefing with our team, several team members have tried to sum up this week in one sentence. “These people have so much hope.” “God’s providence and faithfulness have amazed me this week.” “There are so many types of ministry we can all use.” “Laughter goes a long way.”

We started our week at Palo Blanco. We had no idea what things would be like, so as we were leaving the team house, anxiety and excitement filled the air. However, once we got there, we were able to see what the kids were interested in and what would work with the children. This was also our first encounter with the language barrier, but thanks to our two amazing Spanish speakers, we were able to work through it.

We spent two more days at Palo Blanco. These days were mixtures of soccer, paper mache, nail painting, and basketball. Everyone tried their hardest to speak Spanish. For some it was a challenge, and for others it was a process of nonverbal communication. Nonetheless, we had amazing connections with a lot of the children.

The last two days were at The Ark, another home for children. This is a community that accepts at-risk children, brings them into a new home and family, and shows them strong practical and Christian values. Here, we had the opportunity to eat with different families from other houses, play with the children, listen to stories, and accomplish some mild construction work. We listened to testimonies from two of the people that are a part of The Ark and how God used The Ark to save them.

We heard heart wrenching stories of mothers abandoning their children and a mother that was killed. We heard phrases like “I remember what my life was like before The Ark. I had to steal and sell beer bottles so my siblings and I could eat,” “I miss my mom very much, but God gave me a new family,” and “The Ark saved my life.” While listening to these stories, many on the team broke into tears because of the hope that both of the stories contained.

The last three days, we were placed in a resort named Casa Tranquila near The Ark. It was relaxing, and a good ending to an inspirational week. Sunday, our last day, we went to church at The Ark where we met one last time with the friends we made. This Easter service was particularly special to celebrate Christ’s resurrection with our new friends.

We could go on for days about what this trip means to us, but unfortunately, we have a plane to catch in a few hours. However, the writers of this blog can speak for the whole team and say that the people of Jarabacoa changed our lives and hearts. When we get home, we would love to share every detail about what God showed us and the work He did around and through us.

We also want to share that because of the wonderful relationships that were made, two members of our team decided to sponsor children, one at Palo Blanco and one at The Ark.

Thank you for all your support, prayers, and encouragement. We will post one final blog when we are back in the States, and we apologize again for the inconvenience of not posting sooner.

Praise God that He is Lord over all! We may not know the impact we made, but we trust that God will continue to move in Jarabacoa. In the words of our pastor on Sunday:

“Behold the Lamb of God for he has come to take the sin of the world!”

Joy

I sat in a tiny chair, legs tucked underneath a tiny desk, hands folded on the surface and head down. I looked to my left to see a young first grader Ashley mimicking my behavior. Her face was composed but her eyes held a glimmer of a smile. Beside me was a girl who had been forced to grow up too fast.

Throughout the week at Shepherd I had the chance to talk with Ashley several times. She told me about her family; her aunt had just moved away this week and her and her brothers had gotten a new bunk bed to share between the three of them. Ashley didn’t play childish games during recess. She didn’t participate in wacky Wednesday or pajama Tuesday during spirit week. She is subdued, respectful, quiet. Ashley has faced hardships and conflicts that have pressured and shortened her childhood. However, Ashley has persevered. She doesn’t wear silly clothes to school, but she laughs at my silly faces during quiet time (I might not be the best influence 🙂 ). She doesn’t doodle on her homework, but she hides behind me giggling and shrieking during dodgeball. She runs up and tackles me during recess, she laughs and skips around the playground- at 8 years old she has grown up, but she has not lost her grasp on joy.

This is a common theme at Shepherd. The first grade classroom I was in was full of children who are not always allowed to be children. They have faced conflict, threats to their danger, and lack of resources. They have been pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. They have endured hardships and yet this week they have taught me so much about joy.

The children of Shepherd reminded myself and my team that joy is everything. They embodied the joy of the Lord in the way that children do- through their laughter, their curiosity, their acceptance, and their hospitality. They refreshed my soul and reminded me that through the business, through the heartache, and through the trials of life, joy remains. Joy continues, it refreshes, it encourages, and it reflects the attitude of Christ.

Tonight my team sat around singing worship songs. We sang gospel music and clapped along, we sang children’s songs with motions and old 90’s worship songs we hadn’t heard in ages. We got up and danced around laughing and praising the Lord. This is just one example of the ways in which the Lord allowed us to feel His joy this week.

I have loved this week. Through the ministry of Shepherd, through my team, and through the children of God has allowed me to see his joy in new and refreshing ways.

-Nicki Mortland

Ready to head home

We had a great final day in Daytona…starting with an amazing breakfast with two AMAZING alums Dale and Barbara Murphy. While the food was great….getting to know these to wonderful alums was the best thing about the morning. Here are some pictures from breakfast at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill:

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After breakfast, we spent time relaxing on the beach thanks to some special friends we met last year who have become great supporters of our team! After a great dinner we came back to the hotel for some debriefing and our annual Daytona Talent Show – (no pictures of that auspicious event).

Tomorrow will start with a sunrise service – followed by an Easter service. Then after packing up – we will load up the vans and begin the long journey home. Pray for safety on the trip, for more good time processing and for the many friends we will be leaving behind.

Thanks!

Recess

Four-year-old Emily invited me to make the biggest castle in the world with her. Although skeptical of the stability of a building made of mulch, I undertook the construction project. Then, I played tag with her; it was basically a game of let’s-run-super-fast-until-we’re-laughing-too-hard. That was such a fun recess.

As the week progressed, I would smile at Emily as she came into breakfast, but never had the chance to talk to her again.

During the final hour of our time at the academy, the kids were in the cafeteria preparing to be dismissed. At one end of the 4-year-old table, a large group of children were laughing and playing. At the other end, Emily sat sobbing while watching them, making no effort to wipe the tears from her face.

I ran over and sat next to Emily. I rubbed her arm, asked her about her troubles and assured her that everything would be okay.

Before the trip, a prayer of mine had been to tangibly feel God’s love through me for another person. In that moment, I did. It is hard to describe what it felt like, but I had real compassion and an intense desire for Emily to know that she was loved.

I just continued to rub Emily’s back as her sobs slowed. A couple of minutes later, Emily was called by her teacher to go outside. Her parents had arrived to bring her home. She was still sniffling and shuffled to the door.

As she left, I began to cry. I felt such grief. She was leaving and she did not know that I loved her because God loved her. I barely knew her and may never see her again, and yet I want her to know her value so badly; I want to see her understand the love of Christ. I was overwhelmed with a surprising wave of emotion, a bittersweet pang of love.

I think that in that moment, God was teaching me about His love. Often, when I try to show people my love for them, it is partially selfishly motivated. I want them to appreciate ME appreciating them rather than just wanting them to feel appreciated. In that moment with Emily, my focus was not on myself; I was overcome with a longing for her to know her value. I know that this did not originate in me. The only way that this happened was God giving me His love for Emily.

I believe that this experience was just a taste of God’s love and the way that He feels for us. He was so pained by our separation from Him that Jesus came to die for us. He desires a relationship with us in which we can love and be loved. I know this deeper now.

I am being taught that to truly love someone else, I must share in Christ’s suffering. Wow, actually caring about people means that you hurt for their brokenness?! It is risky business. However, the infinite, beautiful Christ is the strength and love flowing through us. And there will always be recess.

-Julia Noonan