Indy #1

Hello!

Thanks in advance for reading this from all of the Indy team! Our time here in Indy has been an amazing whirlwind of God moments all strung together. Snow started falling very quickly upon arrival, so the work we were supposed to do with the food shelter here at Shepherd was closed, but that gave us some down time to bond and relax a little bit. Sunday morning church was also closed for the same reason, but we got to experience the congregation of Redeemer Presbyterian Church at their Palm Sunday service. It was enjoyed by all. Sunday night we got to enjoy a staple of Indy culture as the Pacers played the Miami heat in an NBA spectacle.

Our ministry experiences have also immersed us deep into the community and neighborhood Shepherd serves. We have gotten to deliver wooden flower boxes complete with dirt, and met some pretty amazing people like a woman who gave Gavin, one of the Fellows at Shepherd, a list of names and phone numbers for friends that she thinks would like them too. She clapped as we showed up, and it melted our hearts. We got to minister with people like the COO of Shepherd, Curtis, as we worked on a patio project for a local church. A few of us took the advice of the law enforcement officer Adam and EMS provider Sean and attended Celebrate Recovery which is a ministry provided by Shepherd’s Nazarene Church, and got to meet community members who were on their way to recovery from different struggles.

All of these ministry experiences have led to many moments of spiritual growth. We have seen God work through a lot of high points, and a lot of frustration. Questions have become our best friend. Answers come in different shapes and forms, but God answers prayers and is always good. Gratitude is a huge new topic for us to integrate into our lives after seeing community members and how they live. Dinner with a few alumni have also opened our eyes to God’s love for wherever He calls us to be.

To end, we have a few prayers requests we would like to share. The first is for Shepherd and the community surrounding this space. There is a lot of brokenness all around, and a lot of good people showing Christ’s love in in that need perseverance and strength. We as a team could also use some of those things too. We are getting tired, and are still trying to process the training we are getting through dialogues with Shepherd leaders about poverty and the neighborhood. We are excited to get to learn more from Chris Smith this coming Saturday, and are reading his co-authored book, Slow Church, and ask for prayers that we can ask good questions and wrestle with them. Again, thanks for all of the love and support you show us, and the prayers!

Indy Team with Rosie, a Taylor alum

Indy

Delivering flower boxes in Indy

Indy Team

Peru #2

Peru 2

One of those extraordinarily resilient faces was Diana. Diana is 13 years old and has symptoms similar to cerebral palsy (i.e. stiff muscles, exaggerated reflexes, currently wheelchair bound, etc.). One of the Taylor students, Taylor Treece, specifically had the chance to create a beautiful bond with Diana. This is what she had to say about her experience.

“One of the harsh truths about individuals who have disabilities is the unintentional limitations and social/physical deprivation that is continuously a pattern in different cultures. That being said, Diana is not expected to ever be adopted by a loving family that she most desperately wants and needs in order to reach her full potential. Being sadly informed of this information, I had an opportunity to love and care in addition to the brilliant women who take such amazing care of her in that orphanage. It all started with getting on her level and meeting her where she is at. With a child of God who cannot “formally” communicate with words does not mean she simply cannot communicate. You have to communicate in ways that she can understand and reciprocate. For us it started with the squeezing of hands. I would grab her hand and massage it in such a way that indicated to her my care for her, and she would reciprocate that same squeeze communicating to me her care. This then would morph into her locking eyes, squeezing my hand, and making sounds that I would also reciprocate. With a heart for individuals with special needs, I knew it would take intentional effort to communicate with Diana that is not automatic to many but is natural to her. Individuals who take the time to open themselves up in a different way that is not automatic, allows kiddos like Diana to open up in a way that is natural for her. She also may not experience that on a daily basis which breaks my heart. Situations like this never cease to remind me the beauty there is in different perspectives, and how those different perspectives contribute value to this narrow-minded world. Diana is an absolute joy and child of God. My prayer is that the world can see her value one day.”

– Katie Tupper and Taylor Treece

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!