Amanda Dorough | The Beautiful Journey


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One Semester Down, 4 To Go

Freedom feels so, so good.  I feel like the fall semester literally flew by.  I mean, wasn’t I just sailing away from Washington on the Alaska Ferry like last week not 4 months ago?  Goodness.

My life in Alaska really has been a blessing and only more of a confirmation with each day that it’s where I’m supposed to be.  As of a week ago I’m officially an EMT 1, hooray!  I still have to take my National EMT exam in January but according to the state of Alaska I am now official, hooray!  Next up?  EMT 2 then the plan is for Paramedic school in the fall, it won’t be a cake walk, but I couldn’t be more excited.

EMT Class

My EMT 1 Class along with our teacher, Tiffani, after our practical exam on the 13th.

So what else is new? Well, some of you may have seen on Facebook but I was offered an RA (Resident Assistant/Resident Advisor depending on the school you go to) for the spring.  I had my interview the Monday after Thanksgiving and hardly ate for the next few days as I waited to find out the results.  I knew that a few other girls had applied for the position and wasn’t sure where I stood, but in the end it worked out for me.  It’s definitely a position with a lot responsibility but it should be so good.  As an added bonus I get free housing in return which is definitely going to take off some of my financial burden.

Speaking of financial aid I found out the other day I received a scholarship from the school that covers 12 credits!  Another huge blessing for sure.  However it looks like the credits I transferred in from my bachelors are causing some trouble/confusion and making me technically ineligible for financial aid since I’m now going for an associate degree and have more than 150% of the credits needed (not the specific classes just the credits in general).  I can’t talk to anyone at the school about it until after new years so it’s definitely a weight.  I’m considering double majoring and entering a bachelors program if that will make things easier.  This is a definite prayer request for me.  My entire life is in Alaska right now and if I don’t have financial aid then I can’t afford to go to school and if I don’t go to school I will lose my housing and my job on top of the academic issues it will cause.  In other words I REALLY need this to get sorted out!  I know that God has paved the way and provided everything thus far so I have no reason to think it won’t work out, but until I have some certainty I can’t help but worry a little, you know?

In other news, as for life right now, I’m currently enjoying my Christmas break in Washington, spending time at my parents house, catching up on Redbox movies (we don’t have Redbox in Soldotna although we ironically have Blockbuster) and enjoying time with my 3 month old nephew Ezekiel.  Gosh they grow so fast!  I’m so thankful to have this month where I can just rest, relax and enjoy the “temperate” weather.  I mean, I can leave the house only wearing a sweatshirt!  I haven’t been able to do that in months!  I’m also enjoying all the shopping options we have here compared to Soldotna although I could leave all the traffic.  Definitely not something I missed!

Well, I guess that’s it for now, except to wish you all a

Merry Christmas!

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Hope From Dust: Mexico Part 2

Ok guys, I’m ready to finish telling you about Mexico.  Pardon the long pause.  I sat down to write this several times and just didn’t have the energy or motivation.  I’m mean it’s summer after all, time to live life, play outside, have fun right?

Anyway, here we go…..

As I mentioned in my last post, this year I had the opportunity to serve as a leader on a site team the week we were down there.  Each site team has a total of 3 leaders, 2 adults and 1 youth, so I wasn’t the only one on the team, which is good, because the house would have never gotten finished!  Haha. No, I really had a wonderful team and wonderful co-leaders this year.  For the first time in a long time the adults were outnumbered by youth which was was cool to see.  It is meant to be a youth trip after all.

While last year almost all teams were building in the same little community, this year we were split to two different areas, miles and miles from each other.  6 teams built in one area, 4 teams in another.  My team was part of “the 4” and our community was up on the side of a hill/mountain with a beautiful view of the valley/town below.

When we arrived that first day we got a chance to meet the family we’d be building for, Elizabeth, Juan Carlos and their 3 year old daughter Estefani as well as Elizabeths parents.  All 5 of them lived in a tiny 1 room house.  Juan Carlos was the only family member who worked and he only brought in $100/week.  This was definitely one of the poorer families I’ve built for over the years, but what they lacked physically they made up for in joy and heart.

The first day of our 4 day build is always dedicated to getting the foundation laid.  If we can get that done we’re golden.  Once we had met the family and found out where they wanted doors etc. we got right to work.  Some worked to squaring/leveling the foundation, some took inventory and others sorted through the stacks of 12 ft 2×4’s we had to find the good ones. By lunch we were ready to start mixing concrete.

DAy 1

DAy 1

DAy 1Over the years we’ve learned tricks to make the build go smoother, and one of them is the more hands you have to do the work the quicker it goes, so when it’s possible we like to match up with other teams to get the foundation mixed and poured.  This year we happened to have a team just next door to us so we teamed up with them and cranked out our foundation in a couple hours, then we switched and worked on theirs.  Even though it took about the same amount of time overall it seemed to go by so much faster because of the change of scenery and the extra hands to mix.

DAy 1

DAy 1The second day of the build the goal is always to frame the walls/roof and get them up.  Sometimes we’re able to go beyond that, sometimes we aren’t.  This year we had a bit of a special situation.  The families lot was really small and cramped and the space they wanted us to place the house backed up against a large cinderblock wall on one side and onto their house on the other, meaning we had two walls we wouldn’t be able to stucco in the end.  The one wall that backed against the cinderblock wall was one of the longer walls in the house, so we got a little creative.  While that wall is usually built in two pieces then stood up, in this case we specially built that wall as one big piece then covered the outside with sheets of plywood (that isn’t actually what it’s called, but forgive me I don’t remember the technical name, you get the jist) and painted it white to make it look finished.  I’d never done that on a house before so it was cool to see/do.

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2

Day 2The third day is dedicated to covering the walls and making the house actually start looking like a house.  This is a day where there is a lot of hammering going on.  I managed to hammer three fingers alone (I then had to play guitar that night at campfire, needless to say I had a tough time) and got a nice big blood blister on my thumb.  Yuck.  Anyways, back to the build.  Covering the walls isn’t complicated, there are just a lot of steps.  First you have to stretch the baling wire (we attach it to the walls before we stand them up), then you cover the walls in tar paper, next you cover the tar paper with chicken wire, and once that’s all tight and all the holes in the tar paper have been covered with duct tape you’re ready for your first coat of stucco.  While we’re doing this there are also people on the roof laying down tar paper, roofing paper and taring the cracks.  I haven’t worked on a roof in 7 years so forgive me if I forgot a step there 🙂 I should also mention that all throughout the build so far Juan Carlos, the father, had been helping us.  Once we reached the first coat of stucco his true talents shone through.  The man was a beast at stuccoing.  He was both fast and good.  We only had two walls on the house to stucco as I mentioned before, Juan Carlos took the big one and we took the little.  It took all of us just as long to do the little wall as it took him to do the entire big wall next to it.  Craziness!  This once again left us plenty of time to help out the site team next to us stucco their walls.

Day 3

Day 3

Day 3The 4th day is always about finishing the last coat of stucco and presenting the house to the family.  When we arrived Juan Carlos was already hard at work stuccoing the wall again, so we set up quickly to finish our little wall as well.  The whole house was done in about an hour.  Some of us went for a bit to another site to help since a good chunk of their team was down due to sickness, then we headed to Walmart to do some shopping for the family and when we had come back they had cooked an awesome lunch for us.  Chicken and homemade tortillas.  They set up a table inside the new house and we feasted, it was incredible. After lunch it was finally time to present the house to the family.  This was one of the most emotional presentations I’ve done yet. The family was so thankful for what we had helped do for them and Juan Carlos let us know that if we ever need help in the future he would be the first one there.

Day 4

Day 4

Day 4

Day 4

Day 4

Day 4This is why I go to Mexico.  While I know many people that argue against the effectiveness of short term missions (and I understand their points in many cases), this trip to Mexico is a special situation.  It’s not about me, or the person next to me.  It’s about being the hands and feet of Jesus and giving these families a wonderful gift in his name.  It’s not a fancy house by any means.  The same thing here in the US would probably serve as a storage shed, but to these families it is precious and life changing.  You can see it on their faces and hear it when they speak.

While I don’t know how much longer or how many times I will be going to Mexico with this group, I will go as long as God gives me the opportunity.  Even when a stomach bug goes around and it feels like the whole camp is throwing up (I thankfully didn’t get it until I’d been safely at home in Seattle for 3 hours, but still… ugh) there’s something magical about going down with Go Inc. and Amor and I already look forward to what God has in store next year.


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Hope From Dust: Mexico Pt.1

I’m constantly amazed by how God uses us.  The very idea that 160 virtual strangers, with few skills and a wide age spectrum (we’re talking early teens to mid-80’s here) could come together for a week and accomplish so much is mind blowing to me.

I mean I know my way around a camera in general, can paint a picture and can plan a mean vacation, but building a house?  Let’s just say people aren’t knocking down my door to build a bird house for them let alone a people-house.

But still I go, and God reminds me that it’s not by my strength but by his that any of this can get done.  After all, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called” right?

This years trip marked my 7th mission trip to Mexico with the group now known as Go Inc., comprised of a collection of churches from WA, OR and CA.  While normally my church flies down on Friday to meet up with the group this year the opportunity presented itself for us to go down on Thursday to help set up camp along with a few other church groups, and man was it hard work.  I’m pretty skilled at setting up a regular camping tent , and have gotten to the point where I can set one up in less than 5 minutes, no problem.  But in Mexico we don’t sleep in regular tents, we sleep in old Army tents, which are huge, and community encouraging but a beast to put together.  I never realized how much work really went into setting up camp or truly appreciated those who did it, but it’s something I will never take for granted again.

I can’t be sure exactly how long it took us to set everything up because of the sheer haze of exhaustion clouding my mind, but I would guess it was somewhere around 4 hours or so.  By 9pm that night, while everyone else stood around the campfire socializing I was back in our mostly empty tent, since the other churches we were with didn’t arrive until the next day, conked out.

tents

tents

And alas, there is no rest for the weary.  We were up bright and early at 6 the next morning ready to work again.  This year I was given the honor of leading my churches Mexico team as well as being a site leader for a team while in Mexico, something I again felt utterly unqualified for.  Part of being a leader is taking part in what we call a 2-day build, which allows leaders to brush up on their skills and the elements of building an Amor house in order the better lead their team members when we set to work the coming Monday.

The two day build is essentially a normal house build just accelerated (it usually takes us 4 days).  That first day 26 of us set to work.  While half the team worked on marking out and leveling the foundation the rest of us sorted through stacks of 2×4 and sawed them to appropriate lengths, getting ready for framing the walls later on and biding our time until we were ready to mix the concrete for the foundation.

campfire

vans

A really cool thing about this two day build is that it was in the same little neighborhood we had worked in the year before. At around 10 o’clock, while I was standing out in the street wrapping up the 2×4 sort this little red car pulls up and lays on the horn.  Next thing I see is a woman jump out of the car yelling “Amanda! Amanda!” followed by her 3 kids. It was Maria, the mother of the family I had built for the year before.  She had seen me from their house and had rushed down to say hi and see if any of the others were there as well.  A couple hours later I got a chance to go up and see their house, the house we had built for them, and it was pretty incredible.  They had finished the inside, putting up drywall and putting laminate on the floor.  Although small, only two rooms, it looked like a real house.  She then led me back to the small one room building that had been their house before, proudly exclaiming that it was her kitchen.  While Maria’s kitchen didn’t look like a kitchen you would find in any American house, I couldn’t help but get the biggest smile on my face.  It was a beautiful kitchen, because she loved it.

2 day build

*Photo by Alex Bateman

That first day on the two day build we were able to finish the foundation as well as a couple roof panels.  That left a lot of work for us to do on the second day, so, as soon as we arrived we got right to framing walls.  By lunch-time the house had been assembled and was ready for us to start covering the walls.  Five hours later the house had been covered in it’s first coat of stucco and was essentially finished.  While we planned on having a team come back to do the second coat of stucco later that week, we finished the day by presenting the keys to the family and officially giving the house over to them.  With about 20 hours of work total the house was technically finished and livable, and for the most part it was amateurs that built it.  That is incredible.

2 day build

*Photo by Alex Bateman

Sunday, like normal, was a day of rest.  We split up to go to different churches in the morning, my team this year once again went to The Ark, a large church in Tijuana.  The last several trips I’ve done to Mexico I’ve been able to go toThe Ark and it’s always such a blessing.  While worship is primarily in Spanish (the way I like it!) the pastor always gets the message translated for us.  This year it was especially hilarious because he kept getting languages confused.  One minute he would be preaching in Spanish and the next in English.  This gave the poor translator a tough time and us a lot of laughs.

The rest of the day was filled with memories.  Van rides with my family for the week, aka Team 5, tacos at El Flaco and palletas for desert, cold sodas and churros from the Amor Store, and just relaxing.  After 3 days of hard work it was a welcomed opportunity to rest and recharge for the week to come, and boy would it be needed.

 

El Flaco

tacos

palletas

Because there are so many parts of Mexico that deserve to be talked about, but attention spans tend to be small, I’ve decided to break this post into two parts.  So don’t fear, the story doesn’t stop here.  Stay tuned for part 2 of the story of Mexico 2014, coming in the next couple days.


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A Story That Starts Out Different Than It Ends

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For those of you that know me, you know that my experiences serving in Mexico each summer during high school altered the course of my life forever.  It showed me that the world was so much bigger than all I knew, all I had ever known, and set me on a course of mission work that has now stretched 14 years.  Half my life.

This summer I have the pleasure of not only going on my 7th trip down to Mexico, but also of leading my churches team.  We’ll join together with about a dozen other churches across the west coast to sacrifice our lives of comfort for a week in order to give a group of Mexican families something tangible, a house.  A small sacrifice, but it’s a start.

As part of the experience each year all of the WA/OR churches come together the first weekend of March on the Oregon Coast to get to know each other, refresh, learn, and figure out a little thing called teamwork.

Winema, the camp we stay at is beyond beautiful… when the sun’s out that is.  The camp sits right on the beach, tall sand dunes standing between the compound and the crashing waves.  I have fond memories from high school walking up and down the beach, climbing sheer rocks faces and all other kinds of dangerous things with my best friends.

When we arrived last friday afternoon the weather was beautiful.  The sun was shining, you couldn’t ask for anything more.  Before heading into Lincoln City for dinner I ran up the dune and was able to snap a photo with my phone.  Boy was it gorgeous, that place makes my heart so happy.

Winema

Part of what the weekend at Winema always includes is an afternoon of work projects to help out the camp.  Last year I pulled branches/logs out of the forest in the pouring rain, it would have been bearable if there’d been no rain, so this year I started monitoring the weather outlook a week ahead of time.  Up until Friday night the weather outlook showed a 100% chance of rain on Sunday but a 10% chance on Saturday.  I thought hooray!  Things are looking up! Even when we woke up on Saturday morning it seemed like the outlook was still Ok.  It was a bit drizzly, but nothing abnormal for the Oregon Coast.

By 12:30, as we prepared to walk outside for our work projects we were in full monsoon mode.  All I could think was “a 10% chance huh?  I never trusted the weatherman.”

This year I was able to get far away from the forest and was instead asked to help lead the teams that would be mixing concrete to pour a couple slabs for the camp.  Excellent! I thought.  We do that in Mexico every summer.  Easy peasy.  Armed with a battalion of wheelbarrows about 30 of us got right to work.  Within 20 minutes everyone was soaked but very few complained.  I was pretty proud.

Winema

We finished the first slab in about an hour and a half then gathered our materials together to move to the second location behind the camps cafeteria.  Where there first slab had been somewhat insulated by other buildings our second location was out in the open and the monsoon quickly turned into a hurricane.  Not only was the rain pounding the wind was gusting so hard sometimes it almost knocked me over, yet everyone persevered, well, almost everyone, but I won’t go into that.  Often we were standing in ankle deep puddles, mixing batches by hand while our arms slowly lost strength, but we pressed on.

The second slab took a little more time.  I blame it on the elements and increasing exhaustion, but despite the tough conditions we finished.  Then here’s where the real trouble started.  Once we had stopped the constant movement of mixing and hauling and started cleaning off the tools I noticed a burn on the front of my thighs every time I took a step.  When I stood still it was fine but when I moved it burned.  I knew cement could burn you, but I’d never had a problem before so I ignored it and spend another 30-40 minutes cleaning up.  By the time I finally made it back to my cabin my thighs were on fire.  Unfortunately when I walked in the door there was already a line for our one shower.  I begged everyone to please let me get in an rinse off because “I had cement burning me.”  Everyone was hesitant, I mean they were dirty too,  but one of my youth, Tiffany, pulled through, she willingly offered to let me go before her (that’s my girl!).

I literally walked into the shower with everything but my shoes on, even my socks, jacket and hat.  It didn’t matter, everything was soaked already but more importantly covered in cement and I wanted to get it off.  When I finally got my jeans off I expected the burning to ease up, and maybe some read skin but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.  The skin wasn’t only red it was REALLY red and even brown/purple in some spots.  My first thought was “at least I didn’t imagine it” and my second thought was “AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” Because the water hitting the burns was excruciating. I hopped out wrapped myself in a towel and hobbled to my bed.  I removed to the towel to reveal my legs to the world in the light and the air was just as painful as the water.  I quickly pulled on my sweat pants and laid down half on my bed tearing up and unwilling to move.  I pride myself in having a pretty high tolerance of pain, but this really hurt.

When I finally tracked down people who I felt would know what to do the only advice I got was put vinegar on it to neutralize the chemical.  I thought anything was worth a try so armed with a cup of vinegar and a clean washcloth I headed back into the kitchens bathroom.  The parting word Ed gave me with a smile was “don’t scream because they’re about to pray for dinner.” I giggled and then shut the door.

I dipped the cloth in the vinegar and decided to touch it to a small spot to kind of test it out.  Turns out “no screaming” was a legitimate warning, but no need to worry.  My body was so clenched with the pain that I could only manage to scream with my mouth firmly shut.  Imagine the fire of a thousand suns hitting your skin, that was my experience with the vinegar.  Since then I’ve read that it really is the best treatment and that many construction workers carry it with them so they can add it to a bath in a pinch.  Props to them because I don’t think I could ever do that again.

When I woke up the next morning my pajama pants were stuck to my thighs, I’d hardly slept and the pain was much worse.  I limped around camp that morning and didn’t even really have the energy to pack my bags.  I just threw everything in and drug it out to my car.  I still haven’t unpacked actually…

By monday the burns were even worse.  Turns our caustic burns actually get worse/bigger over time.  Fantastic.  I called into work for my first sick day in I don’t know how long.  By Wednesday I knew something was wrong.  The pain was worse, the burns were more swollen and more, well gross, we’ll leave it at that.  I’m the exact opposite of a hypochondriac so making the decision to go to urgent care was a tough one for me.  It was more a fear of getting there and being told “oh they’re fine, they look just like they should, just wrap them and keep them clean.”  Instead I got a “whoa those are infected.”  Well glad I made the decision to come in then.  An hour later I emerged covered in silvadene and with my legs wrapped up like a mummy as I wobbled out to the car.  I made the decision to go into work today, but in the end it just wasn’t a good idea and I ended up setting up pre planned sick days for tomorrow and Saturday.  Hopefully it will give a chance for the burns to start to heal.

This was day 2.  The worst burns aren't even in the picture.  This is before they turned into the deep second degree burns.  No fun.

This was day 2. The worst burns aren’t even in the picture. This is before they turned into the deep second degree burns. No fun.

The most unfortunate part of this story is I wasn’t the only one who ended up with these burns.  I think there were 4 of us in all.  It’s an sad souvenir but a lesson learned.  Every summer while we’re in Mexico team leaders constantly pester everyone to make sure they brush cement off of their skin while those with the cement on them just scoff.  You better beleive I’m going to be the cement nazi on my team this year, if they just laugh I’ll whip out a picture of my legs and then they’ll believe.

Despite the fact that my legs got burned the weekend was still pretty incredible.  I helped pour two slabs for the camp and I got a chance to see my youth step up and lead.  I’m super proud of them and even more confident that it’s going to be a great team for Mexico this summer.

I’ll go ahead an leave you with some beach photos from Winema, after the sun left but before the monsoon rolled in.

Winema

Winema

Winema

Winema

Winema

Winema

Winema


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The Mexico Blog

So there I sat, on a dusty cot, a beam of sunlight sneaking under the open tent flap and searing my back.  It was weird and exhilarating all at the same time.  It had been 6 years since I had last ventured across the Mexican border, and 14 since that first life changing trip.  A lot had changed over time and on that first day I anticipated the movement that would happen that week.

Our Mexico trip this year got off to a bit of an exciting/exhausting start.  We decided to drive down instead of flying in order to cut costs.  The drive started out with momentum and smiles, making stops at Krispy Kreme and Jimmy Johns along the way, but as soon as we crossed over the California border the trouble started.  The next 30 hours involved 2 car repairs, 1 tow truck ride, 5 hours in a Walmart parking lot, little sleep, and a race to get to the Mexican border before it became to dangerous to cross.

Breakdown!

We made it.  Just in time.  We rolled into camp at 10:30 and the place was silent, everyone was asleep. Thankfully the other women in our tent had set up our cots because at that point I didn’t have the energy to do it myself.  I had just enough stored to change into my pajamas, unroll my sleeping bag and crawl into bed.  Sleep was instant.

Saturday was a workday.  It was hard, but by 6am we were up and in line for breakfast.  I was part of a group that headed out to Rosarito to finish of a handful of houses that still needed their last coat of stucco.

Stucco

The first house my team worked on was on the hill overlooking the ocean.  This family litterally had a million dollar view, but their house was the size of an American bedroom.  I was able to use my intermediate Spanish to stumble over words and speak to the family.  Five kids and three grandkids lived with them.  Crowded.

In all teams were able to finish 9 houses for families that day.  The smiles on the families faces as we loaded up vans to leave stretched from ear to ear.  It was contagious.

Love kids!

Then came Monday morning.  My team, team 12 got into our van, tools in hand, excited to get to work on the first step of constructing a house for the Diaz-Fuentes family, the foundation.

This year nearly all teams were building on the same 3 streets, close enough to visit on lunch breaks. The unity that came out of the close proximity was incredible.  Seldom was there a moment without a person from another team on your site helping you get stuff done.

Working Together

Somehow I ended up being the person on my team with the greatest Spanish vocabulary and experience.  A daunting task for me.  Maria, the mom of the family we were building for got used to me stumbling over words and putting together choppy sentences and just laughed with me.  A humbling experience to say the least.

Maria and her husband Alberto were so great to us over the 4 days of the build.  They didn’t have much.  Their family of 5 was living in a small house the size of my bedroom, but they spoiled us with food.  I didn’t have to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich once, and each day  we had a different juice cooled by ice, a luxury I had never experienced in my previous trips.  Maria said “We were blessing her with a house and happy workers work better.” She also wanted to leave a positive impression on us “so that we would come back to Mexico.”  Beautiful.

Jonathan

The rest of the week really flew by.  I didn’t feel well through most of it, so I ended up spending more time in the shade or AC than I wanted. But one of my favorite experiences came on the third day, and it’s a silly one.  We had put the frame up the day before so day three was set aside for covering the the walls and roof.  The roof had always been my favorite part of the build in the past, but this year I didn’t get up there, instead I worked on putting tar paper up on the walls using the most awesome tool I’ve ever held, a hammer tacker.  I know, some of you are out there going “really?”  There’s just something really cool about a tool that does double duty.  You would hit the stuff with it like a hammer, but a staple would came out!  I love it!  I actually decided I’m going to buy my own to bring down with me next year.

IMG_4948

So now it’s hard to beleive that I’ve already been home for 3 weeks.  There was something really special about Mexico this year for me.  The last time I went, in 2007, I enjoyed my time but when thinking about coming back again the next year I felt like I could take it or leave it.  I think now, that I’m established as an adult (although people still often mistake me for a youth, others tell me that’s a blessing, I have mixed emotions concerning it) and a youth leader I feel like I have a role to fill and like there’s something bigger than I can imagine that I can do through this missions vehicle.  It’s funny because I didn’t think it would ever be Mexico.  Thailand, Bolivia, Swaziland maybe, and long term, but a week trip to Mexico, nah.  Now I have a different attitude.  Already I can’t wait to go back next year.  I want to impact lives down in Mexico, but on the flipside I’m also excited about impacting the lives of youth, and I think that’s the avenue that God is telling my to invest in now.

Team 12

 

If you want to see more p pictures from the Mexico trip this year you can click here.


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There’s Gotta Be More To Life

I’ve spent the last 6 months floating in what feels like a bazar form of limbo.  As we rang in the new year oh so many months ago I had the excited feeling in the pit of my stomach that this year was going to be huge.  Big things were going to happen, big changes were coming.  Then day after day after week after month rolled by and it was still the same ole same ole.  My schedule became incredibly predictable.

Wake up go to work.

Come back home for break (because I work a split shift and it stinks).

Go back to work, run around with kids for 3 hours.

Come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed.

And repeat.

The only thing different about my weekends were no work and plus church.

It’s a lonely life on repeat.  I feel like I’ve been stuck in a deep hole.  I’ve been clawing at the edges to get myself out but the only thing I’ve achieved are fingernails filled with dirt.  Ugh.

Mexican sunset

Yesterday I returned from my first mission trip to Mexico in 6 years.  Since returning from Bolivia last December I’ve often wondered if I made the right decision to come home.  Going to Mexico affirmed that I had.  It was rough in more ways than one and it became pretty clear that physically I am not 18 anymore, but it was so refreshing to my soul.

On Wednesday night I was given the opportunity to get up and speak in front of everyone at campfire.  When I got up I had an idea of what I wanted to talk about, but what came out of my mouth was purely from God.  I know that because it convicted me as well.  My initial plan was to speak on giving up on the American dream.  What came out was more like “God is moving in this world, he’s talking to you and he has big plans so listen and follow.”

Whoa.  It wasn’t anything new to me.  The concept is all to familiar, but I came to a realization.  I had just wasted 6 precious months being lazy.  It wasn’t just that life wasn’t working out for me, I wasn’t working to make it better.  I wasn’t actively pursuing Gods guidance or searching for his gifts.  Instead my chant became “I hate my life” and I let myself sit in that.  Stupid.

Mexico Campfire

So today, as I sit here typing I cry with all my heart for things to change.  A lot of prayer is going to have to go into this next season, but I already have some ideas of what it’s going to look like.

The first step will be to find a new job.  While my current one has been a blessing financially, I feel like it’s sucking the joy and determination from my life.  The second will be applying to the EMT program at Tacoma CC.  I’ve gone back and forth for years deciding if this was the road I should pursue and the best way I can serve.  Going down to Mexico reaffirmed that it is.  So God willing next year when I go back down I’ll be taking some medical skills with me.

So that’s all I have for now.  To be honest, at this moment I would be happier living in a dusty tent in Mexico than in my house here in the US.  I’m definitely made to serve.  So God, I’m trusting that you’ve got something good in store.  Use me dear Lord.  I want to be your hands and feet to the ends of the earth.

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The Blog I Never Expected to Write

When I returned from the World Race and proclaimed that I was returning to Bolivia because God told me to, few really believed my explanation. It’s hard for many in our modern society to understand that God does still speak to us. But the reason I chose to come for 10 months was a little bit fuzzier. I heard “go back to Bolivia,” but I never heard for how long, so I chose a timeframe that made logical sense, prayed about it and moved forward. But it seems like I got it wrong.

I thought 10 months, but God apparently said 10 weeks. Ya, it surprised me when I figured it out too.

It all started two weeks ago. This tug inside that told me I should start praying about going home (and no, not because of Christmas). There have been a lot of changes recently both in in the guesthouse and with the way HOH deals with volunteers, changes that makes it a lot harder for me to feel at home here. The lack of community has also began to wear on me. At the guesthouse volunteers come and go, and because of an early curfew, building a community for myself outside of the hospital is incredibly difficult if not impossible.

So, after a week of fervent prayer and seeking counsel from family and friends I’ve made one of the hardest decisions of my life. To end my time of ministry with Hospitals of Hope. While I still stand behind what HOH is doing in the community here, it is no longer the place where I can best serve.

So where is the place that I can best serve now? Well I’m not sure. I considered and prayed about serving with another ministry here in Cochabamba, but none tugged at my heart, so instead I will be returning home and continuing to seek God’s guidance in this next season of life, wherever it may be. The only thing I know for certain is that I want to work with the youth again at my church (are you excited Linda?).

And to all of my supporters, thank you so much for your support through this time both financially and through prayer. I know without a doubt that I was supposed to spend these last two months in Bolivia. Even in this short amount of time God has worked tremendously and it was because of your support that any of my work here was possible. And for those wondering, I never reached my goal of $7500, which I realize was God’s plan all along, and for the remaining money raised, which after costs isn’t much, my plan is to continue to use the funds for missions, maybe with my churches Mexico trip or if God calls me to lead a trip for another organization. My time with missions definitely isn’t over, although I don’t know if long-term missions is in my future, at least not as a single woman.

I have a little over one week left in South America and I plan to make the most of it. It’s hard leaving a place I’ve fallen in love with and planned on building a life in, but I trust God, and if he’s leading me away I can only imagine what he has in store 🙂

Pairumani

A beautiful day for a walk around my neighborhood. I’m going to miss this.


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October Newsletter!

I leave in 3 days, and my to-do list is still a mile long, yikes!  At least I can check Post Newsletter off the list!  Yay!

And just a disclaimer, one story in the newsletter is the same as my September newsletter, BUT this is because I didn’t actually get a chance to send that newsletter out to any supporters.  That’s the only overlap though, I promise!

Check the link below to find my PDF! (Don’t click on the picture, it’s only a screen shot and won’t take you to the newsletter 😉 )

October Newsletter

Oct. Newsletter

 

P.S. You may notice this months newsletter looks a little different than last months.  My mother generously offered to buy me Pages (the Mac equivalent of Microsoft Publisher) so now I’ll be able to make newsletters each month I’m in Bolivia.  Thanks mom!


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Provided. Provision.

Guess what?  I leave for Bolivia in 10 days!!!!  Holy smokes, where has time gone?

Currently I’m busy getting things ready to go, including a Q & A to answer all your questions,  but right now I want to give you a quick update, because, well, God is so good!

First, regarding the funds I need to raise for Bolivia.  As of two weeks ago I officially had $4300 raised!  Thanks to incredible donations from so many of you I am more than halfway there!  My goal now is to have the remaining $3200 I need raised by November first.  I know it’s a lot of money, but it’s penny’s to God!  If you would like to support me through a donation or monthly (ie. $10/month) you can find out how by clicking the “Donation” link at the top of the page.

Second, a few weeks ago I posted a blog asking for help obtaining the items I need to bring with me to Bolivia.  I had everything from Shampoo to a Point and Shoot camera on the list and it felt so overwhelming, but my friends really came together.  Within two weeks I was given bags of items I needed, others gave me gift cards, and some even asked me to do photoshoots for them (which has helped me raise money), and now I officially only have one item left on my list, and it’s the biggest item so that’s kinda expected (18-55mm lens for a canon DSLR…or a new DSLR to replace my old, dying one, but that’s really a dream!)  I haven’t given up hope getting the DSLR though.  Like I said, I consider photography to be a huge part of my ministry, and God’s provided everything else, so why wouldn’t he provide this as well?

The lesson learned here?  God is sooooooo good, and he can provide anything you ask for!  I may not have 100% of what I need yet, but I know it’s totally possible!  And thank you so much to all of you who have helped me get to this point.  You may not have received thank you cards… yet, but your generosity hasn’t gone unnoticed.  You are making a difference!  Thank You!

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A paparazzi moment on the World Race in Romania.


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Romania On My Mind

10 months have passed since I left the icy terrain of Romania.  Since then I’ve traveled to 3 continents, served in 6 countries and have enjoyed 4 months with my family at home, but lately, I haven’t been able to get Romania off my mind.

Romania wasn’t my favorite month on the race, but I daresay the people there touched me more than any other month, and I think that’s why it leaves such a mark on my heart.

Our time in Romania was a month filled with contrasts.  We lived in the nicest home I lived in on the entire race, yet we worked with some of the poorest people I encountered.

It was a month filled with carbo-loading thanks to an extremely slashed food budget (due to the cost of living in said nice house). A month full of prayer and walking, of songs and smiles.  It was beyond freezing, but somehow we made it through, and the people we met, will never leave me.

After a few months of creative dryness I entered Romania declaring that I would try harder and take more pictures.  As a result I ended the month with thousands of pictures to sift through.  Pictures of frosty fields, crumbling shacks and gypsy smiles.  I caught it all.  But with that renewed photographic creativity came a literary dry spell for me.  My photographers block had turned into a writers block and I feel like my blogs from that month reflect that.  While I posted plenty of pictures the accompanying stories were glaringly absent.

So now, while Romania is on my heart and mind I want to complete the story.  I want to share with you the incredible people I met, the lives that were changed and  the tales of amazing things God did.

10 months later, I am finally finishing the story. So, here we go…

To start off since the surrounding circumstances and details are no longer fresh within my blog I’ll give a little background on our ministry for that month.

For the first time in our race so far, my team found ourselves hours and hours from any other team, smack in the middle of the country outside of the Transylvanian city of Targu Mures.  Our home for the month was in a small Hungarian village a 30 minute bus ride from town.  Our primary ministry was traveling from village to village in the valley, praying and evangelizing to the underclass of Romanian society, the Gypsy’s.  Other days we would find ourself in the city, visiting and praying for patients in a Cancer Hospital.

This entire ministry was the heart of our incredible contact, Pastor Zsombor.

Pastor Zsombor

I admire this man so much, he lives on sheer trust, faithfully following Gods leading although sometimes it can seem so hopeless.  Pastor had been raised in one of the villages in the valley (or walley as he called it 🙂 ), and his father had been the minister of the primarily Hungarian towns church.  When Pastor grew up he realized that his fathers denomination had traveled down a wrong path, so instead Pastor went in search of a church who truly followed God, eventually establishing his own.  But pastors heart still hurts for his people who are lost, and hurts for the people he grew up around, the Gypsies, so he devotes every day and every dollar to spreading Gods word.  Many times only 1 or 2 people will show up to his church service, held in an old government building, but still he presses on, and I applaud him for that.


Everyday that we did village ministry we would bundle ourselves up, pilling on layers and layers of clothes, and then we would walk a mile to the next village over, where the bus stop was.  On our very first day ministry Pastor decided to stay and evangelize in that village instead of paying for a bus.  We walked down a dirt road to the house of an elderly Hungarian couple Pastor knew.  They were standing outside so we stopped to have a chat with them near their gate.  A few minutes later I noticed a man had come up behind me.  As soon as he caught my eye he began jabbering away in a language I did not know.  Speaking no Romanian, Hungarian or Romani (the gypsy language) I futily mimed to him that I did understand.  Finally we caught Pastors attention.  He talked to the man and learned that he wanted us to come to his house and pray, that he was taking care of his 2 young grand children, his daughter was in the hospital with a 3rd and their father was in prison.

We followed the man, Victor, across the street into the ramshackle Gypsy compound he lived in.

Gypsy Village

He led us to his home, which was truly a shack.  Inside were very few possessions.  Only a Bible, and a bed, where his two grandchildren slept.  We spent thirty minutes in Victors house praying and listening to his story.  Soon, his curious family member from surrounding shacks had entered the conversation as well.

Looking around we could see this was a place of pure sadness and desperation.  A place of poverty and where hopelessness abounded.  When our team debriefed later that night there was a common feeling between all of us.  One of sadness but one of persistence, we knew we had to go back there.

Gypsy Kids

Over the remainder of the month we visited the family 2-3 times a week.  Each time they warmed up to us more and more.

On Thanksgiving day, we opted to forgo our daily food budget and instead use that money toward bringing the family a hot meal.  The weather was freezing, but we trekked the mile, armed with bread, hot chili and a guitar.  When we arrived they initially didn’t understand our intentions, and Pastor wasn’t there to translate, but eventually communication came through, chili was passed out and we spent a good 30 minutes singing Christmas carols.  Smiles plastered on everyones faces.

At the end of the month leaving this family was difficult, for them and for us.  As we looked back, waving goodbye, I looked into Teeny’s aqua blue eyes for the last time and prayed that she would grow to have a relationship with Jesus.

Teeny


A thirty minute bus ride down the road was another, larger Gypsy community that we came to really love.  It was a place where jealousy and violence was rampant, and because of that our heart cried out to them even more.

On our first day, as I stood utterly lost in translation I felt a little hand reach up and grab mine.  It was a little girl, with dirty clothes, tousled hair and something smeared all over her face.  A little girl with the most infections smile I had ever seen and who gave the greatest hugs, and her name was Corina.

Corina

On the second day we visited the village, when Corina saw me from her window she rushed outside and flew into my arms.  A precious memory that will stay in my mind forever.

Each time we visited the village we were immediately surrounded by a hoard of children.  Like the Pied Piper with his loyal following they would follow us around from house to house.

We would lead them in songs…

Songs

And play games…

Games

And take a lot of pictures…

Photos

In this group of children one boy stood out as the leader.  After 10 months I can’t for the life of me remember his name, but I do remember his story, or moreover, his father Josephs story.

Four years ago Joseph was hit by a train.  He suffered several debilitating injuries including a split skull.  Through the fervent prayers of Pastor Zsombor and a YWAM team Joseph was eventualy healed, but instead of surrendering the the God that had healed him, he choose to continue living life for himself. Fast forward 3 years to August 2011.  Joseph was hit again, this time by a car, and he suffered a fractured femur. Because the family was so incredibly poor they couldn’t afford the necessary healthcare. Once again prayers were lifted on his behalf and once again he began to improve.  This time Joseph could not deny Christ and instead fell into his arms.

Although Josephs family of 7 still lived in a small 6 by 6 hut (literally neighbored by a pig pen), marking them incredibly poor on any scale, they had finally gained a wealth through Christ.

Josephs Son


And the final story I’m going to share today is a story of Gods incredible provision through the least likely source.

Every Thursday we would travel into the city to pray for patients at Targu Mures’ Cancer Hospital.  While half of our team would go out into the rooms to pray for patients, the other half stayed back in the dining room to cover the hospital in prayer and to worship.

On our first visit to the Hospital I went out to pray over patients while Lauren, Ashley and Annee stayed back in the dining room.  While they were there a family came in and sat down.  After a few minutes Lauren felt like they should try to communicate so they could pray over them.  After typical miming and hand motions that come with our lack of language skills, the man lifted up his shirt to reveal a large cut that ran across his stomach, up across the back of his arm and up to his neck.  When Pastor and I came back into the room Pastor was able to translate a bit.  He said that the man was in a lot of pain, and he could feel that the Holy Spirit was on Lauren and wanted her to pray for him, so she did.  And in return he wanted to give us something.  He sent his son away, and soon he returned with a literal smorgasbord of meat and bread and soda.  We couldn’t beleive our eyes!  Our food budget was so restricted for the month, that we could rarely afford meat.  This family had blessed us in such away that they couldn’t even imagine.

Meat!

Meat!

Romania was an amazing month, one filled with so many stories, places and faces that it would take me a dozen blogs to even share it all.  But I finally feel like I’ve done the month justice.  In my recording Romania is no longer just a month of pictures, it’s a month of stories, and I hope you’ve been encouraged through it all!

And, in case you missed it, I’ll leave you with a little video recap of our month in Romania as well.