Peru #3

The past few days have been incredible. Each morning we wake up to roosters crowing and many dogs barking. Then we meet for a delicious breakfast and devotionals led by our team members to start our day off well. Next, we jump on the bus and make our way to the learning center of the day where we are graciously greeted by the staff.

Typically, at the learning centers (which are housed in churches), we start by helping with various tasks around the facilities which would usually get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. We have completed a variety of activities including: preparing meals, scrubbing toilets, cleaning quinoa, mopping floors, wiping tables, and much more. In addition, our team has completed three beautiful murals at two locations.

Around noon, we take a brief break for yet another delicious meal created for us. After this, kids start arriving at the learning centers. We typically begin our time with them by trying to engage with them through broken Spanish and laughs. Once everyone has arrived, we start our VBS-type program. We usually begin with a few songs and then move on to our skit about the Easter story. After this, we split up and do games and crafts. Usually the younger children do the craft and the older children play games. This time is typically crazy and incredibly fun! I think we enjoy it almost as much as the children!

After our time at the center is over, our group splits into two and we visit homes of some of the children at the learning centers. The families are incredibly gracious, always making us feel welcomed and appreciated. As we view it as a privilege to be welcomed into their homes, they view our visit an honor to have us in their homes. While they may not have many material possessions, they have a wealth of hospitality and deep love. We are able to learn more about their lives during this time by getting tours of their homes and asking them questions. We end the time by praying for the needs of the family and thanking them for being such wonderful hosts.

Usually we have a bit of free time to relax before yet another incredibly yummy meal. The time following dinner has varied from night to night. We have played soccer, visited look-out points in Ayacucho, gone to the market, and experienced some of the Holy Week festivities in the main square. Finally, we end the night by reflecting on our experiences each day as a team and then going to bed.

One of the best group experiences so far on this trip happened yesterday at one of the learning centers. After lunch, we went to the roof of the building to take a team picture. We were able to see much of the city from this place. After our picture, we took time to pray for the people of Ayacucho all at once and then our translator ended in prayer. God’s presence was so evident and beautiful. God has been here, God is here, and God will be here in the future. We are grateful that God has allowed us to be a small part of His intricate plan for Ayacucho, Peru.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers for our time here. Please specifically pray for the youth camp that will be beginning soon and that we will be a helpful support to the locals who are working hard to provide this for the youth in the community. God is showing His power and blessing us in mighty ways! Each day we are amazed of the ways He is revealing His great love for His people.

We love you all lots! -Katie and Team

 

Houston #3

Here we are on the bus on our way back to Indiana. Everyone was thankful to sleep in this morning because we were very tired after a week of hard work! Amidst the busyness of our week, many of us wanted time to reflect on what has happened this past week, so last night after a delicious taco dinner, we had an organized discussion time. We discussed some reflection questions with a partner and then shared together as a whole team. I just wanted to share some of the things that really stuck out to us this week:

  • The Power of Showing Up:
    • We met so many local people in passing who were so grateful that we came to Texas. A common phrase we heard was along the lines of, “There are so many fun things y’all could be doing with your Spring Break, and yet y’all came here.” We found that people were more vocal about the fact that we came than the actual work we were doing. Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.
  • Big Picture Service:
    • Before coming, we talked in Spring Break class about how short-term missions have to be thought of in terms of the big picture. While in Houston, this became very evident to our team. The people we were serving would mention all of the other teams who had come before us and that people would be continuing to help in the future. This was just a great reminder that the work we were a part of was way bigger than just us.
  • Working as an act of Worship and Love
    • I know there were several of us who were honestly a bit unsure about the importance/impact of the work we would be doing in Houston. I know that I personally wondered if physical labor was the most valuable thing that we could be doing during our Spring Break. After finishing our time in Houston, however, I am convinced that the work we accomplished was very valuable. You see, I believe that you need to not only declare the gospel but show it. By addressing the physical needs of people, we are able to love and care for them as Jesus would. Someone on my team also reminded us that if we keep in mind that we are not just working for man, but for God, it puts a much heavier weight on what we are doing. By choosing to do our very best at painting or mudding or whatever it may be, we can bring glory to our God!

This week was a beautiful one. Please pray that we may be impacted by what we have seen and experienced.

Houston #2

The past few days have flown by! We have put in lots of hard work on our house sites and gained lots of new skills along the way. It has been a pleasure working with Tom, our main Fuller Center leader who is always ready with a sassy comeback or to help us on the job. We have learned to install insulation, put in flooring, build cabinets, paint doors properly, and many more small construction and renovation skills. Along with these physical skills, we have incorporated some new Southern phrases into our vocabulary, such as, “y’all,” “fixin’ to,” and “beaver nuggets (evidently a delicious snack sold here).”

The people of the Houston area are so excited about us being here, even though there have been many teams before us and will be many after us. To show their thanks, we have had many people make us food, bring us donuts, cupcakes, and bring us other treats on our work sites. This being said, it is impossible to be hungry here 😊! We have also enjoyed getting to know another group of college students from Oregon serving with Fuller Center as we are both staying at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church! It has been interesting hearing the major differences between life on the West coast and life in Upland, Indiana.

Yesterday (Wednesday), we worked a half day on our houses and visited the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, which was a blast and a half! We took a 30 minute tram tour to see the NASA buildings and visit rocket park where we saw Saturn V, a giant rocket spanning 363 feet long. Saturn V is the same kind of rocket that has taken our astronauts to the moon several times.  The rest of our Space Center trip was spent exploring exhibits of space shuttles, planets, and exhibits of about the history of space exploration. Fun fact: one of the churches that cooked meals for us has had many astronauts attend throughout history and one of these astronauts took communion in space along with the rest of his church on a Sunday morning!

After leaving the Space Center, our team enjoyed an authentic Italian dinner together at Franca’s. The restaurant was brimming with sculptures and art, all made by the owner’s father. The most touching of his art was a humongous 3D panorama that he made after the death of his wife, documenting their whole life together. The owner’s father mourned while he created the art and put so much emotion into it. His daughter, the current owner was so happy to have us there and loved telling us stories of how the restaurant came to be.

We are thriving here in Texas, folks. Thanks again for your prayers!!

 

Daytona #5

Gathering for worship at Oceanview, a group home in Daytona, was a very special experience. Many different people with drastically different stories gathered in one place singing in unity. It gave us a glimpse of heaven. A place where people are together and joyful beyond measure. Members of Oceanview even began to join in our music playing drumsticks on the table and clapping. Love was so tangible and overwhelming in every moment. It is something our team will never forget. – Jake

Charlie is an older man who has lived in Oceanview for years. He is mentally ill, but that does not stop our team from loving him in his mental state. He often leaves the group to take a walk, and talks to himself in the process. Yesterday, I [Natalie] asked if I could join him on his walks. He would stop and stare blankly in the middle of the beach, and start waving his hands. People on the beach often stared… some laughed. I’ve learned that grabbing his hand or touching his shoulder usually gets him back into reality. Through my interactions with Charlie, I’ve grown to love him deeply. How much more does God love Charlie? Many people would notice Charlie and run away, God chooses to SEE him. I pray that our team and I would continue to search, love, and SEE who the world would say are “social outcasts.” – Natalie

My heart feels full in this place.  I also sit with this awareness that we can take what Daytona is – walking down a beach, around a city, amidst differences and barriers and darkness with the intention of listening and learning and loving – back to wherever we go.  It’s the last morning and we’re currently all gathered in the conference room.  There’s big windows on the far wall that we see the ocean through, always crashing on the shore, and there are blue skies today.  Everyone’s quiet journaling and Steve and Emily are packing lunches for the homeless park.  I guess I don’t want to lose this full hearted feeling – the Lord has filled me this week.  I’m full of this idea that taking attention off of myself and onto the many walks of life around me leaves me feeling much more alive.  I’m grateful for Daytona right now because it stands as an example of the heart of the Father and what is possible.  I think of all the people I have met this week and can only be amazed that we serve a God who crashes through barriers and loves us.   – Tali

Something about this place makes me feel alive.  Daytona is a place full of hurt and pain. Through this week we have been able to meet people in their brokenness, as well as share our own.  There is something beautiful about sitting with someone who is homeless on the boardwalk at 11 pm, tears welling up in your eyes with Vicky, this beautiful human being who is loved by Christ more than she could ever know, is sitting in front of you, sharing everything that she has lost in this life and losing hope for any redemption.  This trip always reminds me of how broken I am, how imperfect I am, but that God still loves me even though he has no reason to.  It is such a beautiful story, and through this week the Lord has used all of us here to bring him glory on the shores of Daytona.  This being my final year as a senior, today I feel kind of numb.  I look around this room as we worship and honestly I just want to cry.  I cannot imagine not coming back next year.  This place and these beautiful people have changed my life, and all that I can do is be thankful for the countless memories that the Lord has given me through my time here on the Daytona shores. – Mort

 

Nicaragua #2

Throughout our trip, we have been split up into a few teams. We wanted to provide our lovely followers with some insight from each site. This is not a full look into all that goes on, but we hope to shine a small light on our experiences.

Agriculture – Ben

Ag

This week at the agriculture site, Holman (The head person of the agriculture site) and I did many exciting things, like ride public buses, build mechanisms, and pick up chicks at the market 😊. However, the greatest thing that I have done this week is getting to observe and participate with what Holman does, which is bring the Gospel to the poor through farming. I cannot say enough good things about Holman. He does an amazing job showing what Jesus is to people who do not know him. He recognizes that they have a physical need, and does not give them what they need, instead teaching them how to get it. However, the physical need is not close to being the most important thing, and the relationship that follows is not the most important thing either. The most important is that Jesus is shared, and always incorporated into the conversation. Holman has had me share Jesus with many people, and that is always the most important thing we do. We could have accomplished the greatest agriculture task, but if Jesus is left out of it, then it means absolutely nothing. Although I am leaving, I am not worried one bit about people not knowing Jesus, because God is jealous for his own name, and Holman seems to be his chosen instrument for these people. As described in Luke 8 and Matthew 13, we have been given every type of seed, but we continued to share and work hard so that Jesus can eventually be shared. I have been through a long week, and it has been great.

Sports Ministry- Mark, Daniel

boys club

This week at the sports ministry we have played a lot of sports! How surprising! We have two clubs each day. We play sports for two hours in the morning and then have a short lesson at the end of each club. Mark has been giving the lessons and Daniel has been closing the sessions with prayer in Spanish! We have enjoyed learning about the culture and being a part of the community for a short time. However, the most profound of all our experiences has been getting to know the missionaries. We work with two Nicaraguan missionaries, Joseph and Nestor. They have poured into us and given us a lot of great advice and encouraged us in the Lord in a variety of ways. They have continually reminded us that the Lord is good and can take care of us in any situation.

Education- Angelina, Leigh, Christina

education

This week at the education site, we have been teaching about “Semana Santa”, or Holy Week. One experience that we specifically enjoyed was the opportunity to build relationships with our site leaders. We witnessed their obedience to God by their passion for teaching. Even though none of us are fluent in Spanish, we have been learning that no language barrier can hinder God’s truth from being shared. Additionally, we have learned to not let our fears of cultural differences in the students get in the way of God’s work. An example of this is before or after class we play games with the children. Though we are speaking broken Spanish with them, we are able to connect and engage with them through non-verbal’s. This week is coming to a close, however, we are excited to see what God will continue to teach us!

Women’s Social Work – Sydney, Leah, Erica, and Briana

 

This week, serving has meant eating amazing fried chicken and getting our hair done. In the U.S., we embody a “do” culture, whereas Nicaragua embodies a “be” culture, a culture in which relationships are valued far above completing a to-do list. Transitioning from one to the other has been rather difficult. Many days, we have found ourselves sitting in plastic chairs, speaking broken Spanish, and occasionally sweeping away the ever present dust. Our American tendency to be doing and accomplishing tasks has been brushed aside with each conversation we have with the people of this culture. Many of the women and girls we have been with come from broken homes and difficult pasts, but when four American women get the opportunity to share conversation and show interest in their lives, their faces light up sharing their passions and interests. Although our ministry isn’t tangibly seen, we must remind ourselves that we do not always have to drastically change the environment, but rather be present and show love.

One of the ministries the social work site has is a beauty school for women in the community. This one-year program allows for the women to become certified beauticians by providing them with a job to support their families. On Wednesday, the site was filled with the buzz of blow driers and laughter as we listened to the stories of the women and allowed them to practice their skills on our hair. To some, sitting in a chair and getting your hair styled may not sound like a form of ministry; however, these women value and need the relationship that this brings. Sitting in a chair for two hours allowed us to ask questions about their families. In this unique setting, we were able to learn and understand the value and importance of being present.

Sometimes “doing” is not always the best form of ministry. Sometimes sharing a homemade meal filled with the best fried chicken, laughter, and love is exactly the form of ministry that means the most.

Microfinance- Lynreshay, Chin Yi, Kris, Dana

We were under the leadership of Katia, a humble, sweet and passionate woman with a heart for Christ and the people of Nicaragua. Throughout the week, we did home visits to various women (and one man)’s homes, where we interacted with them and got a glimpse into their craft. On Thursday, we visited Karla, who is part of the Microfinance program and handmakes hammocks. Before she showed us her craft, she shared her testimony with us. We were really humbled and honored that she opened herself up to us even though we were total strangers. We were humbled at their generous hospitality as they served us with drinks and food although they didn’t have enough. They went out of their house to buy things for us, such as watermelons and Coca-Cola. This experience also taught us to be vulnerable, the importance of spending time with others, and not allowing our current circumstances to affect our generosity.

Every week, Katia meets with the women in different locations. She talks about Christ to them while teaching them a craft and a skill. We heard and witnessed the love, community, and support between the women during each of the small groups. The ministry placed a great emphasis on helping the women find their independence and dignity through Christ and their crafts. In one of the communities, we saw how helping can be hurting at times. In this location, while Students International is doing their work, there is a church that provides free donations for the people. We are leaving this site knowing that providing donations can only do so much if there is no real investment.

Health Clinic- Stephen, Emily, and Briana

healthcare

In a small town on the outskirts of Masaya, Nicaragua, there sits a small clinic in the middle of a dusty pineapple field. It exists to provide quality healthcare to the people of the nearby communities. The clinic is run through hard work and lots of love by a hardworking doctor named Celia and a fun-loving nurse named Rebeca. They’ve been called by God to serve the people living in the communities surrounding the clinic. Their love for God and for people is evident in their passion for their work. We have witnessed that they have a special place in their hearts for the many children and single mothers in the area.

Weeks at the clinic follow a general structure. Mondays, Rebeca and Celia clean, prepare for the week, and journey into Masaya to pick up medicines from the pharmacy. On Tuesdays, they run a malnutrition program for the children who don’t have access to balanced meals. On Wednesdays, they go to a small house/makeshift clinic focused on women’s health in the community of Jocote, named after the fruit trees that abound there. On Thursdays, they visit the homes of residents of the surrounding communities to nurture relationships, encourage patients to come to their appointments at the clinic, and pray with them. On Fridays, they host a chronic illness program at the clinic for adults with diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

It’s into this frenzied, vibrant, beautiful setting that we’ve had the opportunity to step into this week. We’ve been pushed out of our comfort zones in every way imaginable, through learning to communicate in broken English and Spanish, navigating sweltering hot and dusty streets, and meeting dozens of new people each day. However, the openness and relational orientation of adults and the joy and playfulness of the children has overwhelmed us and made the transition into this brand-new culture a delightful adventure.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us! We appreciate it greatly. We look forward to making the most of our remaining time here and sharing the many stories that we’ve made along the way when we get back.

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 🇲🇽