Mexico #3

Hello from sunny Cancun!

Over these past few days we’ve had the privilege of putting on a VBS for the children at the Bonfil site of Back2Back. The morning was dedicated to serving small children (4-12 years), and the afternoon was focused on the youth (ages 13-17). Today was our last day of the VBS, and we are working through processing these last 3 days.

Each day we had time of worship, games, bible lesson, snack, and crafts. For each day, there was a different “theme” or lesson that we focused on. Wednesday’s theme was Jonah, Thursday’s was Jesus feeding the 5,000, and Friday’s lesson was all about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Throughout the day, each of us team members took on a different role. Some of us were in the craft room, some of us were leading games, some of us helped make snacks, and others helped keep the energy strong by being team leaders. Yani energetically led the children and youth in a powerful time of worship and dance during the day, which was one example of how each member of the team was able to use their gifts.

We were all really encouraged to come alongside the Back2Back staff, and see the amount that they pour into each child. We know that when we leave, there is a strong foundation at each site that will remain, because of the staff and thoughtful programming.

This VBS was a great experience for all of us; each of us took something away from it that will have a lasting impact. We are still processing our feelings of the week and the goodbyes that took place this afternoon. Overall, we believe it was a great success and that the children not only had fun, but were impacted.

Thank you for the prayers as we got the chance to minister to these children; they helped this VBS and time with children run smoothly.

Tomorrow we will be working at the same Back2Back site in Bonfil, doing some work projects to help out the staff. We are excited to see some improvements. And on Easter Sunday we will be worshipping together on the beach in Cancun. We are all looking forward to a different type of Easter and for some time together as a group that we can reflect and be with the Lord.

Love,

Alyssa, Jadyn, and Team Mexico 🇲🇽

Russia #1

Zdravstvuyte iz Vladimir, Russia (Hello from Vladimir, Russia)!

We want to apologize for being a few days behind on our team blog, this was for a variety of different reasons… the first and most important one being that we couldn’t get out of the Indianapolis airport for about 8 hours on Saturday and once we finally did, we sadly missed our connecting flight to Paris and had to stay a night in Detroit.

Yet, despite this setback that did cause us to arrive in Vladimir a day late, there was still a midst of peace and joy among my team. We learned a lot about each other during those long sits in the airports or hanging out in that hotel in Detroit. What we learned is that we all were here to see God work- and he was moving even in the waiting of arriving to Russia. He moved as some of my team impacted a sweet flight attendant on our flight to Detroit with their joy and positivity. He moved in our stories that we shared with one another in a small hotel room in Detroit. He moved in the laughter we shared as we waited patiently to arrive at the place that we had been longing to get to.

When we finally did arrive in Moscow Monday evening, as tired as we all were, you could tell there was a collective deep breath. We had made it. We were here. And now we could begin to see here, in a different cultural context, what God wanted to show us. We were eager to meet the kids in our orphanages and foster homes we are working in. We were eager to connect with our interpreters. Lastly, we were eager to come together as a team to do a work that supports people who work every week with these beautiful and amazing children.

As we walked out of the Moscow airport, the cold wind hit our faces and we began our journey. It has been an absolute blessing so far, even despite missing a day in the orphanage. We have seen joy emerge from foster parents faces as we let them take a break while we teach and just be with their children. We have heard stories of adoptions and joy from the orphanages. We have jumped in snow piles and ran around being chased by superheroes and queens of the castles. We have had conversations with our interpreters that have connected us to them at a deeper level and sweet friendships are being formed. And, we have sat together every night as a team and laughed, rejoiced, listened, lamented, and took in this experience the best we can. Oh, and ate lots of Russian chocolate of course.

There always is a sense of sadness or confusion as we see these children lack specific connection from a hole where their parents belong. As a team, we are still figuring out how to process this, and it is always a journey of growth to rejoice even in our sorrow for the children we work with. Yet, their sweet smiles and hugs and laughter make a sense of hope leak out of our hearts and rejoicing is the response.

It’s crazy that it is already Thursday, it seems to be going too fast. Yet, today we are going to soak in every moment of Gods goodness. He is working in all of us and He is teaching us a new thing each day. A lesson about love, about joy, about courage, about peace, and so much more.

Things you can be praying for:

  • To be present, because we missed a day it feels like this week is going faster than we want it to. Pray that we take in every moment!
  • Continual safety as we travel throughout Russia and then home to America on Monday!
  • For the health of our time. Due to jetlag and just exhaustion from traveling some of our members have been fighting off some sickness- please pray for protection and health of our bodies.
  • For our interpreters and the connections we make with them.
  • For the children who are orphans. That they would get a taste of the love of God as we show them through our actions and words how much they matter to us and even more so God, and as we tell them God is giving them a purpose and they matter!

Thank you for so many who prayed and have been thinking of our team. We appreciate you all so much and we can’t wait to come back and tell you of the stories that we heard and the things God has been teaching us! We are so thankful to be in this beautiful country seeing Gods beautiful work so clearly.

With thankful hearts,

Team Russia

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