Amanda Dorough | She's Paying It Off

The Story of My Journey to Debt Freedom, One Tiny Step at a Time


Come On A Tour With Me

Holy Smokes! It’s almost December, where did time go?  I feel like I arrived in Bolivia just a couple weeks ago, not 8!

So, in honor of my upcoming 2 month anniversary I thought I would take you on a little tour of the building I call home, the HOH Guesthouse!

Admitedly, this building is pretty sweet.  If you were picturing a hut with mosquito nets and the like, well… that was my life in Cambodia on the World Race and while that’s ok for a month, 10 would be hard (although I would do it if God wanted me to).  So, I’m pretty thankful for the housing I’ve been given!

To start it off I’ll show you the view looking at the house.  Aren’t those mountains amazing?  The other day I was walking back from the Hospital, I stopped to look at the mountains and I just thought what an incredible artist God is.  So incredible that even the greatest artists on earth can only mimic his work.  Amazing.

The house is built in an H shape.  The right side is the “girls wing” as well as were the family lives, and then the right side is the “guys wing” and also holds our TV room and kitchen/dining room.

Walking forward, this is our little front porch and garden. Doesn’t it look inviting?  There used to be hammocks when I visited last year, but the hammocks gave way to tables.  Often times I like to just sit on the porch to do work enjoying the fresh air.

Go in the front door, hang a right and then a left and you’ll find my bedroom, which looks a little like this…

I’d been dying to try that heart shaped photo collage since I saw it on Pinterest.  I think it turned out pretty well.  The small ones will be coming down soon, to make way for a new idea I have, which I’m pretty excited about!

Then when you turn around you see this.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, I have two beds!  And no I don’t sleep in both.  So far, since I’ve been here I’ve had two roommates, although currently I have the room all to myself (yes!).

And no room would be complete without a bathroom, and in this situation the toilet and shower happen to be in separate little rooms, which is actually, really convenient.

Now, we’ll head out into the rest of the house.  If I go a little more down the hall we get to the big girls dorm room.  Right now there’s only on volunteer staying in it, but in the high season it’s packed!

Connecting the two wings of the house is a long hallway.

And right in the middle of the hallway, in the first spot you see when you open the front door, currently sits our Christmas Tree!

Get to the other end and hang a right and the first room you’ll come to is our TV room, which is also home to our wireless internet router, so we hang out in there a lot, as you can see my housemate Mackenzie doing in this picture!

Then , take the next door and you’ve arrived in the dining room!

And all dining rooms lead into kitchens right?  And ours is pretty sweet.  You can cook anything in there!

But the sweetest part about the kitchen aren’t the things we can make in it, it’s what I see when I open the door to the back porch…

Choco and Oscar!  Our guesthouse mascots, who are both technically still puppies so I’m lucky to have grabbed this shot!

So that’s about it for the tour.  There is more to the house, but you can only see so many bedrooms and bathrooms, and who really wants to see our laundry room?

So I’ll sign off from this post with one last picture, the view of the hospital from the guesthouse.  I hope you enjoyed the tour!

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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.


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.


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…


And play games…


And take a lot of pictures…


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.



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.

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What’s My Problem?

Yep, this is another honest, soul bearing post for me…

I can’t quite understand it.  Usually when I leave, whether to college, Thailand or on the World Race, at this point where my departure is so imminent every fiber of my being is itching to be on that airplane, itching to go.

But this time is different.  Instead there is this feeling, emanating from the pit of my stomach telling me to run the other way.  What the heck?

From the moment I got confirmation while we were in Thailand I wanted nothing more than to be on Bolivian soil, but now, less than two weeks from my “date” I wish the days would drag on longer.  “What another week has gone by already?  No!”

What the heck is my problem?

Initially this feeling scared me out of my mind.  Had I made a wrong decision?  Had I been listening all wrong?  Was I to eager?  To excited?  Dear God please tell me I’m on the right path.  Tell me this is right…

StormIt turns out me fear was warranted, because my problem is fear.

Somewhere in the last couple months my confidence had gotten shot out the window.  As I began to imagine my life in Bolivia the more and more fearful I became and those nasty little “what if’s” snuck back into my vocabulary.

What if I don’t grasp spanish quickly enough?
What if I don’t love it like I did before?
What if I don’t have any friends?
What if I never figure out how to make a cappuccino?
What if I don’t love it like I did before?
What if I hate working in the coffee shop?
What if I’m always lonely?
What if I don’t love it like I did before?

What if I don’t love it like I did before….

A few days ago I posted a blog about how different this time around is going to be.  This time I won’t have my world race family. I wont have my sisters.  We won’t have nightly feedback…  In that blog I stated I was still excited despite how different it’s going to be.  Now I realize how premature that statement was.  I said it because I knew that’s what people would want to hear, not because it was the true feeling on my heart.  My heart still screamed that question, what if I don’t love it like I did before?

And the thing is, I don’t have an answer to that question but I do have a solution for my fear.

It’s high time that I SURRENDERED it all.  Not just bits and pieces, ALL OF IT. I’m giving my time in Bolivia to you God.  Every hour, every minute every breath and word.  I will be OK if I don’t love it like I did before, because I know you have a perfect plan in everything.  I trust that you will help me become fluent in Spanish quickly.  I trust that you will put me into the ministries and position I will be most effective in.  This year is for you Jesus.  I’m not going for me.  I’m going for you.  Take it.

Already I have this huge weight off my chest.  It’s amazing what surrendering can do.  We were never meant to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders.  I can’t beleive I’ve been walking around bearing that burden for so long now.

So I go into today knowing that there are good things in store and this time I can honestly say that I’m excited!


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It’s Officially Official!

Have you heard?  I have a little thing called a FLIGHT to a little country called BOLIVIA!  That’s right, this trip has suddenly become so real!

On Monday I emailed Daniel, the international volunteer coordinator for Hospitals of Hope and he told me we could book my flight once I’d reached $4000.  By the end of the day I was only $40 away so he said we could go ahead and book it.  So the last couple days were filled with flight research and calls to the Bolivian consulate.

So are you wondering when I’m leaving?  Do you really want to know?  OK…..

I fly out on October 11!  As in 3 weeks from today, not October 11, 2013.  I know it may sound quick, but I’ve been preparing for this moment since May, and you may remember that the original departure date I wanted was September 17… So I’m anxious.  Anxious to get down there and start working, and the benefit of leaving in October is that I will get back home in early August, with enough time to enjoy some summer vacation with my family.

Even though I’m leaving in October I still have $3500 left to raise to reach my $7500 goal.  If  you or someone you know would like to support me with even $5 click the donate link in the menu bar to find out how.

I am also still in need of a point and shoot camera and an 18-55mm Canon DSLR lens.  So if you would like to help me in obtaining one or both of these items, or if you have a point and shoot camera laying around the house that you would like to donate please let me know.  I really want to document and tell stories and throughly as possible during my time in Bolivia.  I consider photography to be a huge part of my ministry, often my photos have gained more attention and made much more of an impact than the words I write and I would really love to continue to impact people back home as I venture to Bolivia!

I can’t wait for the incredible things God is going to do this year!


It’s going to take 5 flights to get to Cochabamba, but I’ll get there eventually!

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When I was in high school, none of the yearly youth group activities got us as excited as Sandblast.  Four days of camping and running around like crazy people in the ruins of Fort Worden, a fort built at the turn of the century (20th not 21st) to help protect Puget Sound, which now sits dark and damp on the tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

I have nothing but good memories of Sandblast, so you can imagine that when I was asked to go along as an adult leader this year I jumped at the chance.

With 12 youth and 5 adults we loaded up three vehicles and headed to the fort.  For 3 nights we “suffered” in the cold, well freezing, but the day’s were pleasant enough and while we did meet some bad-attitude brick walls, we made it through and I think the kids got so much out of it.

When we weren’t running around the forts playing games like sardines, Romans and Christians and capture the flag, we were doing team building activities, sharing testimonies and teaching this hyper group of teenagers how to sit down and get close to God through daily devotions, and it was great.

Fort Worden

Crazy sunset on our first night at the fort.

Fort Worden

Where one of the giant guns used it be. It would take 51 men to load and shoot it. Wow!

Fort Worden

Time for devotions.

Fort Worden

Sandcastle building contest.

Fort Worden

The winners and their sand alligators.

Fort Worden

The upper fort, a perfect place to play a game of smugglers!

Fort Worden

And they’re off! Playing a game of Romans and Christians.

It’s such a joy to be able to help and enjoy times like this with my youth while I’m still in America.  I am so, so thankful that I’ve been home in the summertime so that I not only get to enjoy time with the youth group but time with my family as well.  It’s been such a blessing!


Capture the Colour!

So, there’s this photo contest called “Capture the Color” sponsored by @travelsupermkt that I’ve seen popping up on my favorite travel blogs this past week.  The challenge is for bloggers to showcase their best photos in 5 different color categories, red, blue, yellow, green and white.  The more I looked at other bloggers entries to the contest the more I knew I had to enter it too!

So here you go, these are my entries for Capture the Colour:


Barong Show in Bali IndonesiaWhen I traveled to Bali in 2009 I was entranced by every element of the island and the culture that lives there.  I particularly loved how colorful and vibrant the culture is with bright colors adorning everything from traditional dress to offering boxes and the costumes used in the stories of Balinese mythology, like the Barong, or Spirit King featured in this photo.


Romanian Gypsy GirlI spent a month volunteering in the poverty stricken Gypsy communities outside of Targu Mures, Romania in late 2011.  One day as we were walking around from house to house I stumbled upon this little Gypsy girl with the most incredible blue eyes. Eyes that can stir up a collection of emotions and with a color that you just want to dive into.


Mozambique In February 2012 I found myself outside of Beira, Mozambique living in an orphanage.  One day, after the rain clouds had passed I grabbed my camera and took a walk around the property when I spotted this woman working in her rice fields next door.


LhotseIn 2008 I had the incredible opportunity to hike the Everest Trail in Nepal.  On the fourth day of our trek we reached Tengboche, the midway point on a trek to Everest base camp, just as the afternoon clouds rolled in.  I was disappointed that I’d missed my chance to photograph Everest and the neighboring mega mountains, then, a small opening in the cloud cover poked through allowing me to snap this shot of Everests’ neighbor, Lhotse.


Lokrum IslandOff the coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia there is a small Island called Lokrum.  While the island doesn’t have any permanent human inhabitants it does serve as home to several families of peacocks, whose ancestors were brought over from the Canary Islands by the Archduke Maximillion (who had a home on the island) more than 100 years ago.  After being chased by hoards of peacocks as I wandered around the island, I snapped this photo of a lone peacock, sitting on the ancient window sill of the islands Benedictine Monastery, which now sits in ruins.


And now as part of the contest I’m supposed to nominate 5 bloggers to take part so I’m nominating:

Pencil & Lace
To Ireland I will Go
Somehow Beautiful
Adventures in Kuwait
The New Has Come
Make sure you get your entries in soon!  There’s only a few days left in the contest!

So what do you think?  What photo do you like best?


Raw & Honest

I’m really bad at writing personal blogs, the ones that dive into my heart and leave me so exposed.  This blog, is not like the rest.

This past month has been really hard for me, and one of the hardest of my life in a kind of hidden, unexpected way.

Toward the end of July I found out from Hospitals of Hope the last piece of information I needed to obtain to get this Bolivia mission kicked into full gear.  The amount I need to raise.  I was so excited.  I felt like things were finally moving forward.

The crappy thing was that, at the very same time my arch enemy found out my joyous news as well, and he hated it.  Vowing to make my life, and my road to Bolivia as difficult as possible.

I didn’t really realize his plan at first.  I mean, we don’t hang out in the same circles.

Slowly fear and doubt began to overwhelm me and soon m motivation became non-existent.

My enemy whispered “you’ll never be able to raise the money,” and for the first time I doubted.

He whispered “you aren’t really called to Bolivia.  It’s not what God want’s, it’s what you want,” and for the first time I wondered.

He whispered “The middle of September is coming up fast.  You’ll never be able to leave,” and for the first time I feared.

And then came the distractions.

I’ve had nearly a month now to fundraise, but instead of sitting down and getting to it, I allowed my enemy to put distractions in my way.  Convincing myself that I’ll watch some TV now, or go on the internet for just a bit and then I’ll get to my letters later.  All along my enemy knew I’d never get to them.  He sabotaged me and moreover, I let him.  I willingly let every distraction in.  Now here I sit, with one support letter written, and none mailed.

I begin to despair.

The whispers of my enemy are starting again.

But this time I’m ready.  I plug my ears, but then there’s something else.  A sweet voice, progressively drowning my enemy…and he’s calling my name.

He calls “Amanda, cast your cares on me.  Don’t worry about money, have I not provided for you already” and my doubts were erased.

He called “I gave you a heart for Bolivia for Bolivia for a reason.  I would not send you somewhere you don’t love.  You are going to do great and beautiful things there.  Trust your call,” and again I believed.

He called “I once raised all you needed in 10 days.  Your “date” is 30 days away, much more time than I need.  Don’t loose faith Amanda.  You will make it,” and I cried because it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I spent the last month in hand to hand combat with my enemy, but I forgot to put my armor on.  If I’d done that one simple task, this battle would have been over before it even began.

My enemy may continue on to tempt, hurt and confuse another day, but this is a battle he has lost and will continue to loose.  My armor is on and I won’t be forgetting it again any time soon, but even more than that, I’m finally asking for help. I know this is a battle that I cannot win on my own.

Daddy, will you shield me from attacks by my enemy?  I’m not strong enough to do it on my own.  Will you reassure me of your plans for me, blocking the doubts from creeping in?  Will you provide for me even when my faith is small?  Daddy, your love is the greatest I will ever know.  You are all I need.  You are all I need.

And with that I press on, trusting in the words my heavenly father told me and knowing that with each step I take forward in faith, things for Bolivia will fall into place.

I am royalty.  I have destiny.  I was born for such a time as this.


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Something Tangible

It was on my second trip to the pediatric unit that I met Laura, a 6 year old with severe injuries to her pelvic region and legs.  She was literally tied to the bed, with her bonds only allowing enough give for her to prop herself up a few inches on her elbows.  On that first visit Laura was emotionally cold, not wishing to talk, smile or interact in any way.  For some reason that little girl got to me, and over the remaining 3 weeks I made it my mission to help restore her joy.

With each visit I got a few few more smiles and I learned a little bit more about Laura.  She loved to dance and had even won a beauty pageant.  She proudly displayed a picture of herself wearing a princess dress and tiara on the little stand next to her bed, but then something happened.  Through my broken spanish I wasn’t able to glean the exact details, but I do know that there was an accident, and that little Laura had been laying on her back in the hospital for months as she endured more surgeries and tried to recover.

While American hospitals have all sorts of programs installed to entertain kids through their ordeals, Bolivian hospitals aren’t similarly equipped.  You won’t find video games or TV’s in every room, and while Cochabamba’s main hospital does have a good program aimed at helping entertain children, with volunteers, toys and games, even that program is only the most effective for children who are mobile, not children like Laura.

So, over the past two months as I’ve prepared to return to Bolivia for the long haul I started to try to think of something I could do, to help restore joy in the lives of so many children hospitalized in Cochabamba, many of whom’s parents are far to poor to pay for toys or objects of entertainment for their children, and that’s when the idea of a care pack came to me.  Each care pack would contain items to help the children pass time in the hospital, from crayons and paper, to small toys and stickers, and most importantly, it would be something that the children can call their own, not something that has to be locked away in a cupboard at the end of the day.

When I fly to Bolivia this fall I would like to be able to take at least 50 of these care packs with me.  It is such a blessing to be persuing this during the back to school season when so many of the supplies I need can be gained for significantly discounted prices, but even so I can not afford all of the supplies I need on my own.

So, as I continue fundraising to allow my physical self to go to Bolivia, I would like to ask if you would be willing to help in an immediately tangible way, by donating some of the supplies I need to make these care packs.  Each pack will cost about $1 to put together, but it’s a gift that will be worth so much more to these children.

Here’s a list of the supplies I need:

Crayons (Crayola or Roseart are preferred; which I will divide into small packs containing 6 crayons each)
Ball Point Pens
Small notebooks (anywhere from 3in to 6in; please no full size notebooks)
Small toys such as wrapped Happy Meal toys, hot wheels or party favors etc.
Gallon sized zip lock bags
-I would also like to put markers (skinny or fat, it doesn’t matter) in packs for older children.

So, as you shop for school supplies, or your just on next trip to Target to pick up cream cheese and shampoo, if you wouldn’t mind picking up a little something extra to help build these care packs, your donation would be greeting appreciated.  And keep in mind, I’m not expecting one person to fund this whole undertaking, even a donation of one item is getting one step closer!

If you are interested in partnering with me to build these care packs please leave a comment or send me an email at

Thank you and God Bless!


And if you would like to help support me and my mission calling to Bolivia with Hospitals of Hope you can learn more my clicking here.

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Happy New Years: Looking Back on the Last 12 Months

You see it every December 31.  People start reminiscing over the past year and they form their resolutions for the next one.  You know, I’m going to go to the gym, not eat chocolate, read my bible, drive the speed limit…  Some write these in their journal, some share with families and friends, bloggers, tell everyone.

I’ve read many a new years blog posts and I have to say, some people just don’t lead interesting lives, lo siento.  I on the other hand am one lucky girl, at least this last year I think I was.

See,  a year ago I began a journey that defined the most interesting, action packed and incredible year of my life.

Now fast forward. On this last December 31 I was smack dab in the middle of my World Race, sitting on a beach in South Africa I was nowhere near ready to reminisce over the last year or make resolutions.  But, today, as I’ve hit the one year mark I’m finally ready to give it shot.  So here you go, the last 12 months of my life.

Month 1: Ecuador

The year kicked off in Quito, Ecuador, where our squad of 50 spent 4 days being filled up and exploring the city.  We got caught in downpours, lost our breath from the altitude, and stood on the Equator, setting a tone for the next 10 months.

In the middle of launch we experienced what would become the first of many ministry switches, instead of working with a children’s home in El Tingo, we were going to be working in a church in the small farming community of Conocoto, about 40 minutes outside of Quito.  We slept in the church, got attacked by fleas and lived with a family that didn’t speak a word of english, but the month was so good!  We had to learn to live in community, and even more than that, a community of strong-willed women, it was hard, but we came out so much stronger, and after spending a month helping build a new church building, being the weekly entertainment and playing with neighborhood children we left feeling like we had really initiated change.

EcuadorMonth 2: Peru-

The scenery in Trujillo was a bit more bleak than Ecuador.  If I had to think of one word to describe the month it would probably be dusty, but we made the best of it, helping out the church we were partnered with, with their Compassion International program in the mornings and then going on house visits at night.  In the afternoons we had “siesta time” where we were all able to catch up on Glee and the Hunger Games and then on our off days we decided to forgo a visit to Chan Chan for the opportunity to climb up a mountain and run down and massive sand dune (so much better!) and then we made a visit to the famous Huanchaco beach to do what else?  Surfing!

PeruLake TiticacaMonth 3: Bolivia-

After one of our most epic travel days of our entire World Race, 5 days, with a brief stop at Lake Titicaca and then La Paz, we made it to Cochabamba and Hospitals of Hope, a place that obviously left an imprint on me because I’m returning this fall!  While our off day’s here weren’t as epic as Ecuador or Peru, it was the service that really made the month.  I got to work in a coffee shop, paint a school, visit kids in the pediatric ward and go kidwashing (once a week bathing of homeless Quechua children in the city) and I loved it.  While Bolivia has some awesome things to offer, that I’m hoping to take advantage of this next round, this first trip there was perfect.

BoliviaMonth 4: Albania-

5 flights and 24 hours in New York City later we arrived in Eastern Europe.  After three months in South America, the clean, manicured streets of Tirana were a bit of culture shock.  This month we worked with Cru, helping in their college ministry, selling magazines on the University campus, not my favorite, I think I sold 2…. but I did love getting to build relationships with the Cru staff and the students, oh and eating the crepes, boy howdy did Albania have good crepes!

AlbaniaMonth 5: Romania-

This travel day really only took a day, but it included 4 border crossings (Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania) on a child size bus, supporting my theory that travel days on the World Race can never be easy.

We spent a week as a squad debriefing in Bucharest, getting a chance to see the sights and freeze our butts off in the 10 degree weather, then my team hopped a train to Transylvania where we lived in a small Hungarian village and helped in the Gypsy communities.  The greatest poverty I saw on the entire trip were in these Romani Gypsy communities, which were literally built on the wrong side of the tracks.  Kids didn’t have socks, gloves or coats and it was 5 degrees outside.  Many of their homes are also filled with abuse so the kids continue the cycle by beating on each other, and beating on us.  While we weren’t able to help with the abuse we were able to help a bit with the cold, giving the kids warm socks and clothes before we left.

RomaniaMonth 6:  South Africa-

Africa finally!  This was my most anticipated month on the race.  We were partnered up with two other teams for the month, living in Plettenberg Bay, a glamorous resort town on the famous Garden Route, but our living situations weren’t glamorous.  The farm house had no furniture, no stove and only 2 bathrooms for 28 people.  We also slept in tents outside and mine got attacked by monkeys every morning at dawn, no joke.  Oh Africa.

This month was a special situation because it included both Christmas and New Years, so our contact gave us a week off to celebrate, but in truth we didn’t know what to do with our time!  We went into the beach most everyday (it was the middle of South African summer), some went bungy jumping, I just watched, but I did go swimming with wild seals, which is terrifying in its own right, and then I got to get up close with elephants at the local elephant reserve.

Although we had fewer ministry days this month we really grew to love the kids we worked with in the township, everyday they would see our bus pull up to the school and come running, and then they would cling to the bus when we left.  When the month wrapped up we had many tearful goodbyes.

South AfricaMonth 7: Mozambique-

Another doozy of a travel day brought us to Beira Mozambique.  First with an 18 hour bus ride back to Johannesburg, then a 9 hour drive to the Swaziland/Mozambique border (why we drove through Swaziland I have no idea),  somewhere in this period I had a jar of jelly shatter all over my stuff/feet, I guess it was a good thing it took us 6 HOURS to get our visas, so that I could clean it up.  The final stage was a 24 hour bus ride with 22 people crammed into an 18 seat bus, with no air con, driving down the Mozambican pothole-filled roads.  But all the “suffering” was worth it because the boys at the Kedesh Santuario, our home for the month, are some pretty rocking boys.

We didn’t really have a defined service for the month.  We just helped out where we were asked.  We did a lot of tutoring and playing with the boys, hoeing and planting, and boy did we eat a lot of popcorn and watch a lot of LOST.

As we pulled away on the last day I cried, because I knew I would never be back there again.

MozambiqueMonth 8: Swaziland-

This was the month of animals.  Lucky, lucky us.  I’m pretty sure we lived in the best location any world race team has ever lived in.  The house wasn’t anything extravagant, but it just so happened to be on the property of a country club, which also happened to have it’s own game park.  After ministry each day we could go swimming, play tennis or watch American Idol and TLC in the club house.  Then we could go for a run and see zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, impalas…. you name it.  As long as it wasn’t a predator, it was there.  Not content leaving Africa without going on a real safari we traveled an hour south to Hlane Royal National Park to see the lions, elephants and rhinos…

SwazilandSwazilandMonth 9: Thailand-

As we landed in Bangkok I started to bawl, happy tears of course, I felt like I was home.  We spent the first week at the YWAM base in Bangna, Bangkok for our 8 month debrief.  I got to take my teammates to GES to meet my students and then take them around Bangkok, to the malls and temples.  It was a great time.  Then, after getting our teams a little mixed up for our “Manistry” month my team headed to Chiang Mai to work with Lighthouse Ministries, an organization that tries to rescue bar girls and get them into their dream careers, to show them there’s something more.  It was an incredible month, getting to be back in the country I love, but it was incredibly difficult as well, being immersed in such a sad culture.  This is also the month where it was confirmed to me that I would be returning to Bolivia.  An exciting moment!

ThailandThailandMonth 10: Cambodia-

We had to leave Thailand because our visas ran out, but we arrived in Cambodia during the Khmer New Year and couldn’t go out to the villages we would be living in for the month so we found ourselves spending 4 days in Siem Reap while we waited.  When I visited Siem Reap 3 years ago I was over the moon to visit the temples of Angkor, but I never thought I would get back.  Little did I know, 2 years later I would be watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat.  It was cool to be back again, but I don’t think I’ll take it on a third time.

After the 4 days we headed south the Phnom Penh and then an hour west of the city to Kampong Speu and a little village that literally only received electricity a month before we arrived.  We slept on the floor under mosquito nets all month, didn’t have our own bathroom, ate our meals in less than sanitary conditions, got sick, trained calves to act like dogs, swam in rice bogs and fell in love with a group of incredible children.  We taught english to the community children for several hours a day every month.  Those kids learn so fast and had so much joy in the fact that they could learn this uncommon skill.

CambodiaMonth 11: Malaysia-

The last month of the World Race!  After flying into Kuala Lumpur, so thankful that we didn’t have to bus there from Cambodia, we arrived at the ministry site in the city and were immediately informed that our contact wasn’t expecting 2 teams and we were going to have to take a 7 hour, overnight bus to Kuala Krai, a city in the NE corner of the country.  I guess it was only fitting that we started off the race with a ministry site change and ended the race with one too.  It was a trying, jam-packed month, but at least we got air conditioning!  Most of our ministry was with the Tamil people, Malaysian Indians.  We would drive for 1-2 hours everyday to visit Hindu families living on palm plantations.  I’ll just say I got a lot of spanish practice in on the long rides.  Thank goodness Malaysia is gorgeous.  Our longest road trip of the month was to Penang, where we got to do late night street feeding with the homeless.  It was 72 hours straight of ministry but so awesome.

The month wrapped up with our final debrief.  A time to reminisce and say goodbye.  Our final debrief just happened to be on a tropical island.  Lucky, lucky us.

MalaysiaMonth 12: Home-

Coming home was so easy and so hard.  I unpacked my backpack, and though I was thankful I didn’t have to live out of it anymore I cried because it was a symbol of the race being over.  Being home this last month wasn’t the most eventful.  I spent most of my time cleaning, playing with Ellie, scouting thrift stores and catching up on TV, but the rest I got was definitely needed, and now, I can go into this new year with a new energy, and a new excitement.

HomeSo, I would officially like to be the first to wish you, a Happy new years!

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Super Score Sunday

A couple of weeks ago I sat in my room, overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I need for now and for my upcoming move to Bolivia.  Well, mostly overwhelmed by the amount of  money I needed to purchase these things.

Earlier that day I’d gone to both Target and Walmart and priced out every item I needed, yes some may call me anal, I just call it smart. From shoes to shampoo to pens  and underwear, and while the items weren’t singularly pricey, I added the numbers together and it was much more than I could afford.  So instead of dwelling on the impossible, I prayed.  I prayed that God would provide everything I need, and I have no doubt that he will, especially if these last couple weeks stand as any example of his provision, because boy has he provided, and I’m so excited that I want to share just a little of what he’s given me.

Super score! new balance
Store: Goodwill
Price: $9
I was so excited when I found these basically new New Balance 442’s.  Probably my favorite tennis shoes ever, I’ve owned 2 pairs in the past and I’m so excited to have gotten this pair for more than 75 % off the department store price

Super Score! waterbottlesStore: Goodwill
Price: $1 each (the camelback was bought for 50% off)
I go through water bottles like mad.  I went through 3 on the Race alone through breaking and… misplacement, so I figured it would be a good idea to bring a cheap spare, and can I just say I love the design on the first one?  It was a super great find.

Super Score! productsStore: Walgreens
Prices: Deodorant, 50 cents each; Shine Serum, $2.75; Mousse 79 cents
Amount Saved:  $10.20
I’m a self-proclaimed sunday add hound.  I clip coupons and circle the awesome sales for the week.  I went to Walgreens because the deodorants were on sale, and I had a coupon, and I just happened to find two other things on my list, the mouse and shine serum, both on clearance.

Super Score! clothesStore: Goodwill/Value Village
Price of the 5 items: $25
I’ve had some excellent clothing finds at thrift stores lately.  Before the race I frequented thrift stores but never went into the clothing section, now that’s my favorite part!  I love some of the deals I can get, like brand new Lands End jeans on sale for $6.50 or a nice ruffle collared Gap shirt for $5.  Every other item in the picture is name brand as well, from Eddie Bauer to Adidas, all of which would have cost me around $150 brand new.

Super Score! umbrellaStore: n/a
Price: Free!
As I’d gone to thrift stores I’d kept my eye out for a small umbrella.  I’ve done the whole rain jacket thing, and I got soaked.  I even managed to forget my jacket at my contacts house on the very last day of ministry in Malaysia, hence I needed something new and umbrellas are cheaper than jackets, especially this one.  When I told my mom some of the things I was looking for she said “I have an umbrella you can have.  I never use it.” All I could think was, score!  Thank you Jesus!

So that’s my first round of “Super Score Sunday.”  I’m sure as I continue to prepare for Bolivia and finally find out how much I will need to raise I will have some more great finds, because I know, God provides!

Check back tomorrow to find out more about the big adventure I have coming up this week!