We’ve seen a bit of everything in the past two weeks, and we’re still able to “live laugh life” about it. We’ve had fifty kids in class in one community and four in the next, we broke up a fist fight, we have created pencil dependency, and we have lost every pencil sharpener the day we got it. But, we have also seen the excitement and self-confidence that comes with getting a math question right, remembering a phrase in English, and sharing about their dreams and goals for the future.
Throughout the chaos and uncertainty, we have been learning a lot both from our kids and each other. We have been seeing the differences between the week-long trip and this trip, especially in building relationships with the kids. Coming in as summer school teachers, we’ve had to earn respect and trust from the kids. They didn’t automatically love us because we were making them do schoolwork. In the summer. But over the past week we have felt more welcomed, loved, and appreciated by our kids.
These relationships have taken time, effort, and persistence.
During our training meetings, we learned about the relationship cycle. The first step is infatuation. Infatuation is the illusion of love. It often comes with excitement and unrealistic expectations for the relationship. Most relationships in a week-long mission trip do not get past this stage.
The next step that every relationship must go through in order to become deep and meaningful is called disorientation. This is the hard part of a relationship where expectations are not met, faults are realized, and we become disappointed. This happens with friends, significant others, and even with God. This step is what refines the relationship. God uses this step to test and strengthen our faith.
“For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver” Psalm 66:10
It kind of felt like we started out in the disorientation stage with the kids. The kids are used to the Americanas playing with them and doing whatever they want. Because of this, the kids had expectations for us that we did not fulfill. As their teachers, our goal was to help them learn and make them feel capable, not just to play. It definitely took effort and perseverance to get the kids to respect and listen to us in the classroom.
If you are able to push through the disappointment and redefine your expectations for the relationship you move into resolution and love. This is the final step in the cycle.
Going into our last week of teaching we are still working on moving into resolution and strengthening our relationships with the kids. We have felt a major shift in the atmosphere of the classrooms (minus the fight) and have been connecting better with our students. If we hadn’t persisted through the hard days we wouldn’t have the relationships we now have with the kids. We would have been distant, uncomfortable, and unwelcome. Now we are welcomed and loved, even when the class doesn’t go well.
The process of building relationships with the kids has been similar to building a relationship with God. It has taken persistence, it’s been slow, and at times it is frustrating. Throughout our lives, we encounter difficult times and may not feel God’s presence. But ultimately God is using these seasons to develop our faith and character.
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” Romans 5:3-4
He has been growing something so much deeper and more meaningful in our time in the classroom, as well as in our hearts. We have only gotten a glimpse of the joy that these relationships can bring and are looking forward to our final three weeks here in Barahona.
Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to for the past two weeks!
More personal updates:
Kristina has 25 more bug bites, Bekah had a 101 degree fever, and Kadyn rubbed a banana peel on her foot.
We all learned how to make no bake cookies, the generator broke (means no AC), and we started bringing chairs into the pool.
(PS Arik and Bilen, the kids were asking about where you were this week. Miss you guys!)
We have been in Barahona for three weeks now. Our friends from SPU just left for home on Saturday, so we are getting into the groove of teaching without them. We loved having them around to help us teach, hang out, and play nertz (lots of nertz). We miss them already! S/O to Bilen and Arik. It was sad to see them go, but it was a good reminder of how fast time is flying by. It makes us appreciate the time we have to make stronger relationships with the COTN staff, our host families, and the kids.
Since our last blog, we started summer school and lived with host families for two weeks.
Bekah and Kadyn headed off to Paula’s house and Kristina went to Magnolia’s. Both women work in the COTN office. It was an adjustment living away from the Casa (the COTN guest house), but we quickly grew to love our new families!
Bekah and Kadyn’s host brothers (Paul, 4 & Jeremy, 1) kept them entertained, Bekah even got peed on by Jeremy (LOL). Every evening they sat out on the porch and hung out with Paula, her husband Wellington, her sister Perla, and the boys. As they sat there and talked (both in Spanish and English!), tons of family and friends would stop by on their motorbikes and chat for a bit. They experienced the value that community and relationships hold here in the DR.
Kristina lived with Magnolia, her husband Fran, and her sister Pamela (14). Over the two weeks, Pamela and Kristina became close because Pamela was quite good at English. She ate chichurones (pig skins), learned meringue, and realized her love for empanadas. She had a lot of alone time to rest and reflect on the days. This school year she had a busy schedule and during her time at the host family she had to learn to be okay with taking time to rest.
Last week we also got to go to Zumba at the local park! It was great to get outside and to be back together for an hour each night. We learned some new dance moves, too! We hope to make this a weekly outing for the rest of our time here.
Here’s what day in the life of Kad, Beks, and Kristina looks like:
8:30 – Breakfast
9:30-11:30 – Class
12-2 – Lunch
2:30-4:30 – Class
5-11 – Dinner, pool time, chillin out, & if we’re lucky, Zumba!
Throughout each week we teach English, reading, and math in the five bateyes. We have run into a few roadblocks: some schools don’t have books for reading class, kids don’t bring their notebook and pencil every day, and the different types of classrooms we have in each community. We have also realized the breadth of grades, ages, and skill levels in each class and have learned how to teach each group of kids.
The most challenging subject is reading. Some kids don’t know their letters while some kids should be reading chapter books. It is also a challenge to have enough books each day at each school. We have learned how to create new activities with reading and adjusted to the different learning styles of each class.
We love teaching English and math! It is really exciting to see when students understand what they are learning and when they realize they are capable of learning these subjects. Their looks of joy and confidence are what we look forward to every day. We have also started to personalize the subject matter of the English classes to what each group wants to learn. We only have a few more classes of English left and want to teach them what they want to learn. We also taught them the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling” to teach them the days of the week in English. It was a hit!
Originally it was daunting to think about how much subject matter we felt we needed to teach each kid, but we have realized the real reason we are here. We want to make each kid feel capable, confident, and cared about in our classes. It’s less about them learning a certain amount of math and more about them seeing their ability to learn. We love our kids and look forward to the little successes during the day!
Through everything we have done here, the language barrier has been the most difficult aspect. God has been teaching us so many things through us not fully understanding what is being said.
Church services are lively, loud, and long. We love seeing how other people worship the same God and the passion and excitement that He brings to them every Sunday (and Thursday!). Although it’s next to impossible for us to get the message of the sermon each week, it’s incredible to hear people worship and talk about God in another language. You can definitely feel His presence in the room.
We have a newfound respect for people moving to a new country and being faced with learning a new language. We definitely feel lost a good portion of the time but we always figure it out in the end!
We would love prayer for energy, patience, and that God would continue to show us why we are here. We hope to be stretched in new ways and see God working all around us.
Here’s some personal updates from the past two weeks.
Kristina: has 21 bug bites, hair has been cornrowed for like five days, scooped a dead bird out of the pool.
Bekah: all the kids think her name is cow, shaved her legs for the first time, was traumatized by two wasps on her back today.
Kadyn: according to Franklin she has a boy name, didn’t shower for five days, loses it whenever she sees a puppy.
Time has flown by and we are already done with our first week. We flew into Santo Domingo late Sunday night and toured the city the next day.
In the afternoon, we picked up two other interns from SPU and headed to Barahona (bara-OWN-ah), our new home.
We went to the COTN office to meet all of the staff members and then went over to the medical clinic to meet the nurses there. After that, we went to the I Love Baseball field and Kristina showed up all the boys with her skillz.
Over the next few days we visited the bateyes, communities where we will be teaching at the COTN schools. We met with the principals of the schools and met some new friends. In Los Robles, we met a guy named Robinson who was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident a few months ago. As we visited with him and his family we were amazed by his faith in God and his confidence that he will walk again. In Don Bosco, we met two girls while we walked around the neighborhood. We quickly got comfortable with each other and were laughing and joking around together and singing Despacito.
We also helped with the COTN kids camp on Thursday and Friday. It was for kids ages 8-12 who behaved and did well in school. We sang and danced with the kids for the whole morning and in the afternoon we played with them on the playground and watched them swim. It was a cool opportunity for the kids to meet and play with kids from other communities.
Finally, we were able to tour the two universities in Barahona. At the public university, we got to sit in on an English immersion class and talk with the students. We have been having a lot of fun seeing the city and being immersed in Dominican life.
So far we have been learning to go with the flow, adapt to change (there’s a lot of change), and how to rest. The culture is very laid-back and relationship-based, so we get a lot of free time to just build relationships and reflect on our experiences.
Tomorrow we head off to our host families for two weeks and Monday we start teaching. Keep us in your prayers and feel free to reach out, we don’t get snail mail here but we do have wifi at certain times of the day! Keep an eye out for our next blog post!
Kadyn, Kristina, and Bekah
Hello! My name is Taylor Johnson, and I am one of the 2017 deputees. In less than 12 hours, I will be at the airport with my team to spend the next 8-weeks of my summer in Montenegro. Throughout the entire deputation process I’ve been continuously asked: “How are you preparing for this?” “Aren’t you scared?” “What if it’s not everything that you’re expecting?” and that’s why I’m writing this blog post, to address these questions, and to specifically focus on how I have been preparing for deputation.
Truthfully, I love when people ask me the questions I stated above, because not even a year ago, I thought exactly the same way they did. I felt this constant need to have control and order, and I needed to always know what was going to happen and when. Well, I have discovered this need for control and order comes from not fully trusting God in all aspects of my life. Making the decision to go on Deputation, was also me making the decision to give all trust to God in all aspects of my life.
So, how have I been preparing for this trip? By trusting in God every step of the way. By trusting in God, I see that as me having complete faith in God. My favorite verse in the Bible is Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (NIV). Deputation is giving me the opportunity to finally live out the truth of this verse. I may not have all the answers to everything as I get ready to board this plane in a short, twelve hours, but I have faith that God has me going on this trip for a reason. I may not know what the reason is yet, but I feel Him calling me to this, and hearing Him calling me to serve this summer is all I need to know this is the right choice for me.
So, am I scared? No, because I have faith that God has a plan in store for me greater than anything I could ever imagine. Am I scared my expectations aren’t going to be met? No, because I don’t have any expectations. The only thing I expect to do is go and serve the Lord for the next 8-weeks, other than that, I am leaving the adventure and experience to God. The only way to truly prepare for this trip is to understand that you don’t have control. God has the control. When I understood this, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders, and I have been able to grow in relationship with God and to hear His voice more clearly. As I finish typing this post, and add last-minute items to my suitcase I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. I am finally walking by faith, and it is such a beautiful thing, indeed.
It’s our last morning in Haiti. We are all packing up and getting ready to say goodbye to the people that we have been working beside all summer. We spent our last few days here at a beautiful resort where we got to swim in the ocean and relax in the sun. It was like paradise and the perfect way to end an amazing mission trip. We are all sad to be leaving Haiti, but all plan on coming back at some point in our lives. Haiti has left such a huge impact on our hearts and it’s hard to say goodbye. We just want to give a huge Thank You to the Tlucek family for hosting us this summer, the other interns that we worked with for an awesome community, and the World Deputation program for giving us the opportunity to serve in Haiti this summer. It has been a blessing.
The past month and a half has been crazy busy and also crazy amazing. We started our trip by almost immediately leaving Lima for Iquitos, a city surrounded by rainforest. We went to prepare for the YMI explorer team that we´d be working with just a few days later. The six-member team (Lynn, Cindy, Max, Katie, Cobi, and Emily) was a ton of fun. We also had a few English/Spanish translators there: Marveli, Daniel, Jonatan, Elizabeth, and Liz. During the week-and-a-half trip, we worked in kids programs and aided ministry lessons in order to provide support for the YMI team. We both grew very attached to some of those we left in Iquitos and were very sad to return to Lima. We don’t think we’ll ever be able to fully describe the impact Iquitos had on us.
We got a few days in Lima to rest and help serve food to a Chinese team that was with Julio’s church at the time. During these few days we also met our English/Spanish translators for our Amazonas trip: Anthony and Leyla. After the weekend was over, we met the next team we’d be working alongside. This seven-person team (Carl, Robin, Tim, Beth, Ben, Zach, and Kevin) was from Maryland. They’re pretty awesome, and also pretty tall. We felt like dwarves. Then we boarded a flight to Chiclayo, where we stayed in a hotel for a night. The next day, we got on an eight-hour bus ride to a city called Bagua where we again spent the night in a hotel. The final day of travel was a six-hour ride in trucks to the side of a river where we were picked up in peque-peques (motorized dugout canoes) for a short ride to Hope Mountain, the seminary/church/whatever-else-it-was where we’d be staying. For the next five days, we worked with churches up and down the river to minister to youth, which involved a lot more trips in peque-peques. Of course, lots of other fun things happened too. We ate zuri (grubs), achuni (monkey), armadillo, and some sort of hawk. We played frisbee, had water fights during boat rides, and grew very close as a team. Amazonas had some peculiar challenges as well. The largest was probably the double-translation. Everything was translated first to Spanish, then to Awajun (a local language of the region), so messages had to be short. Overall though, Amazonas was also amazing, and we were sad to leave there too.
Now, we’re back in Lima for the remainder of the time. We can’t believe that we have only a little over a week left! For right now we are preparing to teach a Sunday school class at Julio’s church and mostly just hanging out. We’ve also gotten to see Leyla and Anthony a few times, which we really enjoy. Rosario’s cooking should be a national treasure, and we’ve lost count of how many desserts they’ve brought home for us. We’ve also tried cau-cau and cuy in the last week! We are a bit like helpless puppies, staying where we are told and eating everything, but we are certainly enjoying it!
Our question for our last week is this: what’s next? What changes when we get home, and what doesn’t? We have to ask ourselves what God has in store next and how our experiences have been preparing us for that. We will be continuing to ask these questions in the coming weeks and months, and we would love it if you would pray with us about this.
That’s all for now, but we’ll probably be updating one more time at the end of our trip!
~Jenna and Ashley (Team Peru)
It is week 5 of English Camp and we have been here for 6 weeks so far! Time is flying by and it is incredible to reflect on all of the things that we have done here. Stephanie has been teaching Older Science, which is boys and girls ages 10-14 and Alessia has been teaching Younger PE, which is boys and girls ages 5-10. I have been a Group Leader for a group of girls ages 10-12. We have all been enjoying our positions a ton and love all of the kids here! There are super cute and it is going to be SO hard to say goodbye to them at the end of next week.
When we arrived in Haiti, we soon discovered that we would not be the only people volunteering at English camp. There are 11 interns in total and they are all amazing people. It was a bit overwhelming at first to learn everyone’s name and remember where they were all from, but now we have grown close to all of them and become a close knit community. Some of the interns will be staying here for a whole year, which definitely puts our 8 week mission trip in perspective. There have also been teams and individuals that have come down to serve for a couple of weeks at a time. It has been great to meet and interact with so many amazing people. Everyone serving here loves Jesus so much and it is inspiring to listen to their stories and testimonies.
On the weekends we have been taking day trips to other parts of the country. We have been to the beach twice so far and have heard rumors that we will be going again this weekend. The beach is beautiful and the water is so clear that you can see the bottom even when it’s 15-20 feet deep! We also get to eat Haitian food at the beach, which we all love because Haitian food is the best food on the planet!! We have also gone into the mountains once and that was gorgeous. The mountains are extremely green, which I did not expect when I heard that I would be going to Haiti. I imagined everything to be dry but the country side is very lush and we have had several thunder storms during our time here. They are really intense, but also pretty cool to watch because the lightning is so bright. When we don’t take trips outside of Port-au-Prince, we have gone to some little boutiques and street vendors. We savor every moment that we get to explore because we don’t get to leave the property during the week due to the high crime rate in Haiti right now. So far we have loved every part of Haiti that we have seen and are looking forward to seeing more of the country before we leaving in a couple weeks!
The heat here is intense and mixed with the humidity, we are all sweating more than we ever thought possible and that any human ever should (“so be thankful” -Alessia). Also, the mosquitos have been horrible. We are all getting eaten alive, but it is worth it when we get to see the kids’ smiling faces everyday. Camp has been really fun so far and has tested all of our comfort zones. We did not know that we would have required tasks to complete when we got here, but that quickly changed. We have to lead stretching in the morning at assembly, lead English songs during morning assembly, tell a Bible story during morning assembly, and give a devotion at the morning meeting or after dinner. These things definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but were also a great opportunity for growth. We are now preparing for the end of camp, which involves teaching the kids songs and verses to memorize for the ceremony on the last day of camp. It is kind of stressful right now, but I think that the end result will be really amazing. So that’s a quick summary of everything we have done so far because we have failed to post anything thus far…I hope you enjoyed reading it!
Haley, Alessia, and Stephanie
A week later and we finally are posting here! We aren’t very good at this but were trying. We have been in India for a week now and every single day here is filled with new experiences, sights, smells, emotions, laughter, and good food (yes its spicy. yes we are struggling).
We are working with the kids and learning their daily routine, as well as how to adjust to teaching children with special needs. It hasn’t been the easiest transition but each day gets more comfortable. Aubrey is working in whats called “The Office” which is where the older kids, who aren’t working on academics, go to learn different skills to go out and live on their own in the working world. They are learning computer skills, paper bag making, laundry, and teamwork. Sarah is working in the art class 3 days a week with the older kids helping them learn about shapes, colors and shading, art history, and painting techniques. The other 2 days she is helping in the preschool with Class B. Most of the kids are non-verbal but they are able to recognize their shapes, numbers, and body parts. They also love snack time, painting/coloring, and getting to sing songs and dance.
After school we are tutoring 4 of the preschool boys. Tutoring is a term we use lightly because most of the time it ends up being lots of coloring and taking silly pictures. It is tons of fun though and usually our favorite part of the day.
Although this week hasn’t been the easiest one of our lives we are learning a lot and very grateful to have this experience.
Lots of love,
Auntie Sarah and Auntie Aubrey
Hey everyone! We’ve made it safely to Lima and the lovely home of Julio Serrano, the missionary we’ll be working with while we’re here. It’s been a long, but good, day. On our flight to Houston, we sat next to a very kind man from Southern Louisiana who told us about his own mission work in Mexico and how he hopes to go back into ministry in a few years. Thankfully, we only got ourselves lost in an airport once, and Jenna was only mistaken for a minor twice! We’re so excited to be here and to meet the rest of the Serrano family tomorrow!
~Jenna and Ashley AKA Team Peru
We arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti this afternoon after stopping in New York along the way. Byron and some of his kids greeted us at the airport and soon after arriving at the Tlucek’s house in Tabarre, we were introduced to the other interns that will be working at the camp with us. We got to see some of the Haitian culture on the drive back from the airport and the heat is incredible. Andrew (the oldest son of Byron and Shelley) showed us around the property and gave us a brief explanation of what camp will look like on a day-to-day basis. We ate homemade pizza for dinner and enjoyed refreshing mango smoothies for dessert. The day was long and hot and exhausting, but we made it!! We are all excited to see what tomorrow holds and start doing the Lord’s work.
Yay! We are leaving in a week! We are sitting here looking at the painting next to this computer because we don’t know what to say. But here we are, our first blog post. Lower your expectations now folks it isn’t gonna get much better.
Sarah and Aubrey and also sorta Ryan
Hey, here we go! We will be embarking on our journey June 18th and we are super excited to see what is in store for us. We are all a little nervous, but know the experience will be amazing. We can’t wait to share our memories on this blog and share our journey with you all! Thanks for your support, it is much appreciated 🙂
Hey guys! Team Peru here! We’re so excited to be heading out on the 23rd. We’ve been working hard to prepare for this trip and meeting with Lucero, the daughter of the missionary we’re working with and employee of Youth Missions International. Our biggest concern thus far is getting accidentally engaged while in the Amazon. Be on the lookout for more blog posts as we’ll be checking in a few times during this process!
~Ashley Michel and Jenna Hayes
(Post from July 14th, 2015)
So for those of you keeping score at home: I was right. As soon as we got to the coast and saw all of the beautiful cliffs, all of the small towns, the fjords (as a slight aside, “fjord” is easily becoming one of my favorite words), and meeting some of the people here, I didn’t want to leave. I was honestly surprised about how many adventures we were able to pack into our brief three days along the coast.
On the Coast, Day 1: Saying “Goodbye”
Tuesday morning we woke up in Niksic and said our goodbyes to Pastor Stan and Vicki. They graciously let us stay in their home for three days in between working at camp and traveling to the coast. I could easily have spent another month there (at least) working with the ministry, doing follow-ups with the people we worked with at camp, helping Pastor Stan try to create sustainable business practices for the people in Niksic, or just helping Stan and Vicki with the renovations around their home. I really hope I get to come back in the relatively near future.
We departed around 8:30am for the coast. Most of us (The English, Americans, Danish, and Montenegrins) packed into a small bus as well as an overfull car and headed southwest. Our first view of the coast came from the top of a cliff overlooking one of the small towns. The view was breathtaking and nothing less than what we have now come to expect as “normal” for Montenegro (seriously, this country is gorgeous). After taking a couple of pictures, we piled back into the bus and traveled down the mountainside. After another hour of travel with a couple more stops to get out and walk and take pictures, we finally arrived in the coastal city of Kotor.
Upon arrival, we all piled out and jumped off a pier to cool off before exploring the town (the AC on the bus either didn’t work or was non existent). Half of us decided to climb up to the fortress, which I felt like I was tricked into doing. I was told the view was fantastic (which to be fair, it was, don’t get me wrong), but to get to said view we had to climb about a million and a half steps, and when we weren’t even near half way up we all looked like we’d just escaped a POW camp. We all were all soaked in sweat; our faces were brighter than the tomato I ate for lunch, probably dehydrated; and the top layer became optional. Once we got to the top I cared more about just being done and resting than the spectacular view that was sitting in front of me. There is probably a metaphor about faith, works, and our walks with Jesus in there somewhere, but I’ll let you sort that one out. After we rested for a bit and took an adequate amount of pictures we headed down the side of the mountain to meet up with the rest of the group so we can go to the beach.
Once we got to the beach and after we spent a good amount of time throwing around a volleyball, sharing a few drinks, playing a card game, and just hanging out with some good friends, it was time to say a second hard goodbye to our English, Danish, and Montenegrin friends. Our local contact Nina then took us to the small coastal city of Herceg Novi. After dinner we decided that tomorrow we would try to hunt for our lunch and go with Nina to go octopus hunting in the bay. We all got incredibly excited by the opportunity.
We then explored a bit more of town as well as the waterfront. I was able to talk to Nina a bit more about the culture and the people. She talked about how the big sport along the coast is water polo, which makes sense, but what surprised me was that just like how everyone has their favorite soccer or “football” club, everyone here as their favorite water polo club. And they are just as passionate for their water polo team as they are with their favorite soccer club. We also got to talk about Montenegro as a country, and what I found interesting is that there is no bad blood between Montenegro and Serbia, which would seem to be the exact opposite case of most of the political between Serbia and other Balkan states. In fact, what I’ve noticed is that a lot of people who live in Montenegro don’t call themselves Montenegrin rather they call themselves Serbian. She also mentioned that when she travels to Croatia she doesn’t feel safe to be alone. Which is makes me feel both disheartened that someone could feel that way, but excited for ROM (the big reconciliation/leadership conference that will be the last 2 ½ weeks of Deputation).
On the Coast, Day 2: On Holiday
We all woke up at the incredibly early hour about 5:30am in the morning to go meet up with Nina for the hunt. We slowly made our way over to Nina’s and once we got there we were showered with some wonderful Montenegrin hospitality before we headed down to the dock. Once we got down to the dock, we had to wait for some advice from someone she knew about where would be good spots to go hunting. After receiving a bit of advice from one of the locals, we hopped into the boat and began what looked like a mile-ish paddle out.
It was about halfway through the journey to the other side when I asked, “So what technique will we be using to catch the octopus?” I was thinking some form of nets, maybe a fishing rod, fake crabs, or some man-made invention to give us some form of edge over the illusive octopus. However, Nina replied with, “our hands”. I was a little surprised, but it looked like it was going to be an epic showdown. Predator vs. prey, man against beast, an epic showdown to see who is truly the most evolved, hunter or hunted.
We eventually arrived at the other side of the bay. We tied our boat off on an old post near one of the old submarine bays that the military used to use (I believe during WWII) but has since been abandoned. Nina spotted an octopus underneath the boat. We waded into the water slowly so as to not to disturb our still very much alive lunch. Nina slowly ducked her head into the water to try to get a better view of the future stew. After a couple times of trying to open her eyes underneath the water, she gave up. And the rest of us were like, “nah, we’re good,” so we all decided to call it quits and go back to the shore to lie down and enjoy the sun. Sure, it was disappointing not to get an octopus, but we were on the coast of Montenegro – it’s pretty hard not to remain disappointed when you’re here.
On the Coast, Day 3: More Goodbyes
We spent most of the morning hanging out on the beach. While in the water, Fredrik and I both stepped on a sea urchin. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought it would. For a while I thought I just stepped on a sharp rock. It wasn’t until about fifteen minutes later when Fredrik said, “Hey, I think I stepped on a sea urchin,” that I thought to reassess whether or not that rock I stepped on was truly a rock. So when we walked up on land the answer was yep, I had three spines stuck in my foot. After lying around in the sun for some time longer, we made our way back to Nina’s grandparents house to get those spines removed. As a bit of a side note: Nina and her grandparents are amazing. They were nothing but hospitable to us, and it was an honor to meet them and spend time with them.
After lunch we just hung out near the shore, grabbed some absolutely fantastic gelato, and made the most of the time we had left. These past few days were absolutely amazing, and while some of the group was ready to go back to Belgrade, I really fell in love with Montenegro: the mountains, the coast, the food, and all of the people we’ve gotten to meet have been absolutely amazing and not something I will soon forget, and I hope I get the chance to come back in the near future.
We said another goodbye to Nina and boarded the bus at 8:00pm to make the twelve-hour drive back to Belgrade. This, I think, was the hardest goodbye for me. This was not only because Nina was an awesome host, but because this was us leaving Montenegro for good, at least for this trip it would be. I could have easily been here for another month at least, whether working at more camps, working with Stan and Vicki, or actually catching an octopus. But who knows? I just pray that I get to come back soon.
Hi friends, family, and supporters,
We are indeed here in Bolivia! In fact, we have been here for about a full month now! It has flown by as we have been busily adjusting to our new routines. We will be better about updating you on this page in the next month, but if you want more frequent Bolivia updates you can check Juliana’s blog, http://jugetobolivia.blogspot.com
We are happily situated in Trinidad, in the Bení region of Bolivia. We live in an apartment in the upper level of Fundación Totái, an ear, nose, and throat clinic that also partners with La Iglesia Jireh to offer more outreach. This includes sports ministry, church services, OANSA, youth group and community classes that provide a Christian message while letting us play with the kids. Mostly we just love on the kids and staff we encounter, especially as the family structure here is hierarchical, meaning kids don’t get all the attention they desire. We have regular Bible studies and prayer meetings, and we do our best to encourage each other in Christ. Ok, in the morning we go through the foundations filing system and are slowly but surely making it more organized. We have been able to bond with some of the staff members through this which has been awesome. It’s also very humbling. Soon we will begin painting walls once we finish filing. Then we go to lunch in the cafeteria where we see the lovely cook and her family whom we all adore because they’re the bees knees. Then we take our siesta time which does wonders. Then we usually split up between the three of us for the afternoon activities. We either go to community class, basketball practice, or fútbol practice. Once a week we go to the local orphanage which we are also split up for. Brittany goes to the younger kids home, Juliana goes to the teenage girls home and Haley goes to the teenage boys home. Saturday’s we have OANSA and youth group which is an awesome way to have fun with the kids we’ve been able to hang with. All in all, it’s been great so far. There are obviously challenges but God is surely with us. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. Our specific prayer request would be encouragement when we feel discouraged. Which may sound silly but sometimes you just need a little pull to get out of the muddy puddle. Also that we would turn to God during those times of struggle. Thanks guys!! Rock and roll.
Hey guys! Sorry for being MIA these past few weeks. Life here at Asha Kiran is busy but wonderfully fulfilling. Every weekday, we get up and have breakfast with Rita or on some days we go to the cafeteria to eat with the hostel kids at 7:30pm (The hostel kids are those living at the school because their home is far away from Bangalore/out of state). School starts at 8:15am and ends at 1:15pm. We eat lunch with the kids at 1:30pm and then help them with homework until 2:30. After that we have a break until 4pm when we go back to the courtyard to play outdoor games with the kids, and mind you it is hard playing football and cricket in kurtas and salwars (which are long dress shirts and large pants). At 5pm we have tea time, tutoring, and devotions until 7:30pm when we go have dinner with Rita and Prem.
The way the school is designed is that preschool has sections A – D with A being new younger students or those that need the most help and attention from the teachers. The students take certain tests to see if they will be promoted to the next class. If they do not pass, they remain in the same class again until they are ready to move on. The ages of the children can range from 5 years old to 10 years old in the preschool. Once they pass preschool, they move either to VTC or to class A1 and so on.
During school Hannah, Marlena, and I each have the opportunity to work in different areas of the school. Hannah works in the Vocational Training Center (VTC) where she works with the older students in teaching practical life skills such as vegetable cutting, cooking classes, sorting, art, and shopping skills. Marlena gets to work with both the art teacher every Tuesday and Thursday, and in preschool B on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Also, if a teacher is sick, Marlena is the one to call! Filling in for the teachers gives her more of an opportunity to interact with almost every student in the school which is really awesome. I get to work one on one with a little boy from preschool in section A. Recently he’s come down with a case of the chicken pox so for right now I’m working with another little boy in preschool D.
Each child is so unique and beautiful that you can’t help but love them. One of the most wonderful things about working with the children is finding what they love to do and what their strengths are. We can see their confidence in themselves grow when they accomplish assignments. It’s beautiful and it makes every step or bump in the road worth it for that moment of success.
On the weekends we rest at home, or we go out into town with Prem and Rita’s niece, Ana who is visiting. We rode a rickshaw for the first time and Ana took us to the ice cream shop that was literal heaven on earth. It was about 120 rupees (about $2) for a freaking huge sundae and I almost died of happiness. This last weekend we got to go visit a city called Mysore. We went to Mysore Palace. It was huge. We went to the Mysore zoo and then after we went to the Brindavan Gardens. It was really fun, but also a little overwhelming because people kept coming up to us and asking what country we were from. They were confused as to why Marlena was hanging out with a bunch of Asians I guess? They also asked to take photos with us. We said no. I also don’t understand why they wanted photos. We got home late and then went to bed. We go to church every Sunday with Prem and Rita and the hostel kids.
Some things we would like to have prayer for is:
- Energy because we often feel very emotionally and physically drained at the end of the day.
- Patience when working with the children because sometimes it can get frustrating with communication barriers and learning how to properly interact with each individual student and their different behaviors.
- For health for the children, the teachers, and us since there seems to be a virus going around lately. Also some of the hostel kids have lice and we’d really love to have that not make its way into our hair.
- Finally, we really want to make Jesus real for the kids here. Most of the students are Hindu and we want to present Jesus in a way that is outside of just saying the Lord’s Prayer every day and listening to devotions. We want them to pursue a relationship with Him so prayer for the words and the boldness in sharing would be appreciated.
We’re excited to see what else God has in store for us here! You guys are great and your support means the world to us! We’ll hopefully post again soon.
Jenny – Team India
Yesterday we had a 4th of July fiesta with our friends volunteering here from Seattle Pacific University. The Dominican COTN staff also joined in with our barbecue and pool party. There were so many burgers, hot dogs, french fries, and delicious guanavana juice. Michael took a lot of epic action shots at the pool. It was a great time.
There is so much to do and to explore here in Barahona. The blue beaches are picturesque and the mountains, complete with their fields of coffee plants, are beautiful. There is even a town called Polo Magnetico, where the magnetic field on the hillside is strong enough to pull our van uphill!
It has been a joy to work in the villages with COTN. English and music classes are going well and the kids are very energetic and fun to work with. n Friday Shane’s team in the I Love Baseball program won their game! We are excited to begin summer school programs next week and to continue working in our classes and sports programs.
We are here in the beautiful Casa de Betesda in Barahona. After a long journey and a very bumpy van ride from Santo Domingo, we are excited to begin our two month internship with Children of the Nations.
Today we toured the Bateys, which are villages where we will spend most of our time teaching English and helping with summer camps for the children. Kylie will also be teaching music lessons, Shane will be coaching baseball with the I Love Baseball program, Marjorie will be coaching a soccer camp, and Michael will be using his photography skills to help COTN’s sponsorship program.
We also met COTN’s incredible staff, which included one of the Batey’s first students to grow up with the COTN program. She now attends college at the local university and is working to give back to her community.
In our down time we love getting to spend time with the Casa’s awesome staff and swimming in the pool. Everyone here is so passionate about being a part of COTN and in strengthening their communities. We cannot wait to get involved this summer.
We know that all good things must come to an end, but we are thankful to God for the sheer abundance of good times we have had these last six weeks. Interacting with and getting to know the Russian kids has impacted each of us in tremendous ways. Having said goodbye to all of our new friends at Camp Iskra, we are now in St. Petersburg. In St. Petey we are spending the remainder of our time in Russia with an organization called the Harbor and seeing the city.
Our last session at Camp Iskra was filled with lots of fun and memories. We found it easier initially to interact with the kids in many ways because we were significantly more comfortable with them and the camp. Our knowledge of the Russian language was expanded during this session, which was extremely helpful. All of this has helped us to build relationships with many of the kids in our cabins. These relationships lead to meaningful conversations with the older students and lots of fun with the younger ones.
Both camp sessions went by in a blur and are already beginning to merge together in our minds. Though the sessions were similar, there were some distinct differences. During our more recent session we felt that the overall English level of the students was not quite equal to that of the first group. This was a blessing in disguise; we were able to pick up some key Russian phrases early on that became quite useful during the second session. The last three weeks presented us with increased opportunity to interact with other campers outside of the English program. We were all pretty amazed that relationships could be formed despite the lack of a common language. Overall the camp was an incredible experience and an opportunity to share love, happiness, and fun.
Not only were able to spend more time with the campers, but we also had the opportunity to bond and make memories with the counselors and staff. Some of our favorite times with them happened at the bonfires which took place after the kids had all gone to sleep (or at least should have been asleep). We introduced them to our American style bonfire traditions (marshmallows and dough boys) and they introduced us to theirs (shashleek, rye bread, kartoshkas, and sausages). Not only was there plenty of food, but also lots of laughter and singing. We feel incredibly blessed for the friendships we have made! A few of our friends, in fact, are meeting us here in St. Petersburg to spend time with us and show us around the city.
It has been really neat to see how God has been working in and through these relationships during the camp. We have had the opportunity for some incredible conversations with many of the counselors and staff, and even a few of the students. As we were reading in 1 Corinthians 3 we found a passage about God using each person uniquely: one to plant, one to water, and one to harvest. We know that God has been using us to water and plant, even though we haven’t seen the beginning of his work here and might never see the end. Nevertheless it has been both rewarding and inspiring to be apart of God’s work here in Russia.
We are writing to you now in St. Petersburg from the guys apartment at the Harbor. We are staying with the Harbor, which is a Christian organization that helps kids coming out of the orphanage system, preparing them and aiding them for adulthood on their own. The Harbor owns flats on the outskirts of St. Petersburg where they have house groups of people for period of time, teaching them tasks like cooking, cleaning, and budgeting. We have the incredible opportunity of spending time with some of the young women and men while living with them in two of their apartments. We had meals with them last night and today and have already enjoyed getting to know them and testing out our newly learned Russian conversation phrases.
We toured the city with a few friends from Iskra today, which of course, was amazing. St. Petersburg is more European in style than Moscow, and we all agreed that the atmosphere in St. Petersburg is friendlier than in Moscow. We are enjoying a little bit of rest after six weeks of camp, but are looking forward to seeing all of you when we get back!
– Team Extreme
(We wrote this blog 14 days ago, but internet wasn’t good enough to post it. Welcome to life in rural Bolivia.)
Here in Bolivia, we’re getting comfortable with the unexpected. Your order of coffee came with forty live ants? An alligator showed up at your front door? Nothing quite makes sense here, but you get used to it. From the frog in our shower to bleaching our vegetables to getting stuck in a rural town for an extra night because of a washed out dirt road—we’ve learned to laugh and take it all in stride. Accidentally stepping in one of the open sewers that line Trinidad’s streets can still catch us off guard, though.
Last weekend, we got to practice more Bolivian fishing, but this time for piranhas. I (Emily) think I found my calling in life—I caught thirteen. Angela and Katlyn weren’t quite so lucky. (It’s still a sore subject.) In keeping with tradition, another tire popped on the way home—but we’ve gotten pretty good at changing tires now. Our friend Donna Blanca fried up the piranhas for us that night and we ate them straight off the bones. They’re delicious with lime. Alligator is, too.
We’ve been keeping ourselves busy here working at Fundacion Totai, coaching football, helping with Oansa and youth group, and volunteering at the local pediatric hospital. Two weeks ago, we helped run a week-long VBS, where we taught kids Bible verses, led small group discussions, and played a lot of games. It was really encouraging to see the way the kids opened up to the Gospel, and to be greeted by smiles and hugs and our mispronounced names every morning. Katlyn is especially hard—she’s gotten everything from Kat-leen to Kitty. It’s been fun to build relationships with not only the kids here, but the adults too. Fundacion Totai is kind of its own little community within the town of Trinidad, and it feels like we’ve been welcomed into one big family. A lot of different families have invited us over for lunch, and it’s been sweet (and humbling) to see what everyday life is like for the locals here.
It’s been incredible to see glimpses of what God is teaching us already. We have been learning a lot about what it means to live and serve selflessly. It can be exhausting living and working in a foreign culture—sometimes nothing makes sense and you’re frustrated and it’s hard to see the point of organizing every single medical record since 1918. But in those moments, God has spoken one phrase distinctly—and repeatedly—to the three of us. “THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.” It’s been insane to see how that idea has changed our attitudes and humbled us, showing what it means to actually put others before ourselves. Although if we see another manila folder, we might puke.
We’ve also been learning a lot about patience (…posting this blog). Bolivian time is stretchier than it is at home. If a birthday party starts at 8, showing up at 9:30 means you’ll be the first ones there. If a concert starts at 8, the main act probably won’t show up until 12:30. A lot of patience comes with the language barrier, too. It was struggle for all of us at first, but we’ve learned to let go of what we don’t understand, and to embrace what we do. Friendships are deeper than language, and it’s amazing how far you can get with only a handful of nouns and verbs.
We’ve loved being more independent and learning how to take“taxis” around town. Basically, you just wave your arms at any random man in a hat on a motorcycle and hope that he’s a taxi driver. If he’s not, he still might offer to take you (yikes). Trinidad is the motorcycle capital of Bolivia—it’s not uncommon to see a family of five all piled onto one motorcycle, babies in arms and all. We’re contemplating ditching our plane tickets and just taking motos back to the States.
I can’t believe how fast time has gone by. The fact that we have less than three weeks left (now less than one week) is blowing my mind—but at the same time, so much has happened and it feels like we’ve been here forever. We’re looking forward to seeing what new adventures and lessons God still has in store for us here. Pray that He will keep speaking to us, teaching us, and protecting us. And pray for health—Katlyn & Angela are currently down for the count with stomach problems. (They got better.)
Sending our love and some of the golden pink Bolivian sunshine to all of you back home. Nos cheque!
Emily, Angela, & Katlyn
We are writing to you on the first day of the second shift at Camp Iskra. We were sad to see the first session kids leave on Friday; there were lots of hugs, tears, and social media information exchanges. We can’t believe how fast the time has gone. After spending three whole weeks with our new Russian friends, it is hard for us to think about restarting with a whole new group. We are excited, however, to get started with the new kids, who already seem energetic and enthusiastic. Having experience with the Russian culture and having learned snippets of the language, we are feeling much more confident. In other words, we don’t feel like we are drowning in confusion and unfamiliarity, like we did three weeks ago. We are also excited to continue building relationships with the new counselors as well as those that have stayed from the last session. We have already witnessed God’s provision and faithfulness throughout the ups and downs of the last few weeks, including sickness, exhaustion, and miscommunication. At times it was difficult to continue being joyful and positive, but God has been faithful to our prayer request for team unity and has blessed our time together. When you spend three weeks deep in the forests of Russia with the same people and schedules, you learn to love the flaws, weirdness, strengths, and quirks of yourself and one another.
This past weekend we had an EXTREME excursion to Moscow. Everything in Moscow is “Russia Sized;” the streets, buildings, and underground metro system are massive and beautiful! We felt like little ants popping up here and there around the city. It was a weekend of firsts for all of us: we tried Kartoshkas (potato sandwiches) and blini (Russian crepes), went to Red Square (spoiler alert it isn’t actually red), and saw many stunning cathedrals like St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer. One of our favorite parts, however, was the complementary breakfast we had at the hotel Sunday morning. The food wasn’t anything particularly spectacular, but we all enjoyed the opportunity to eat whatever amount of whatever we wanted. It is safe to say that our stomachs may still be full from that breakfast 🙂 Even though we only had 36 hours in the city, we moved at lightening speed and were able to pack in a lot of sightseeing.
We have had the opportunity of seeing many Russian Orthodox Cathedrals and two monasteries last weekend, which were all incredible. Our images and worship practices are different than that of the Russians, but we are realizing that God is bigger than these differences and we are all interacting with the same Creator. It is incredibly humbling and fascinating to see all the ways in which God exists apart from our understanding of him in the US.
Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts! All of your support is greatly appreciated. We continue to ask for prayer for team unity, health, and energy. It is our prayer that God would give us an incredible amount of love for the people in Russia, as well as patience, compassion, and endurance. God answered our prayers for nice weather; it is incredibly sunny this week! We are all working on being appreciative for the little blessings God has given us and feel grateful for the opportunity to be here and be examples of his love and faithfulness.
Shout out to Anne, our team member who went back to Michigan a few days ago. We are praying for your safe travels and hope you are having a great homecoming with your family 🙂 Love you and miss you!
First we would like to thank all of you back home for your prayers. Before we left Seattle one of our prayer requests was for strong dynamics and team unity. God answered that prayer in incredible ways. We never expected to have so much fun together while still getting so much done. We are in awe of how much creativity, joy, and laughter that God has blessed us with during our time together. God went above and beyond when putting together our team!
A typical day for our team looks like this: Leading morning exercises, breakfast, leading Extreme Time (our daily assembly where we play games, do skits, and sing with the kids in English), lead games and activities within cabins, lunch, Jesus Time with our DEP team, snack, planning session to prepare for the following day, dinner, big camp activity (disco or bon fire), snack. Basically, our motto for each day is EAT, CHANT, SLEEP, REPEAT. We are kept really busy but we are having so much fun so it is worth all of the effort.
The kids haven’t interacted much with Americans before coming to camp. They are all very anxious to speak with us and ask us LOTS of questions. We are constantly bombarded with KHELLOS and DAI PYATS (high fives). To them we are silly, goofy Americans (with killer dance moves, of course). They also have a lot of fun teaching us Russian tongue twisters!
We went all out the first couple of days of camp and are starting to run low on energy. If you all could be in constant prayer for our tired bodies and minds we would be very grateful. Pray specifically for our health, as we are all fighting off a bug that has been going around our team. Please also pray for our communication with the Russian team members so that things will run more smoothly and with less stress. Our team has identified a possible ministry with our Russian co-counselors. Prayer for opportunities to have meaningful conversations and fun memories would also be appreciated.
Thank you again for all of your support. We love you and miss you!
Paka Paka (bye-bye),
Privyet (Hello) from Team Russia in Chicago!
Byron, Christa and I (Tera) just landed in O’Hare and met up with Issac who met us from Colorado. We have a six hour layover in the airport before we depart for our second leg of the trip to London! From London we will head to St. Petersberg where we will drive 10 hours to our campsite in Cherepovets. During our layover here in Chicago we are using the time to plan games and events for the kids… and don’t worry, we managed to find a Starbucks as well. 😉
We have been blessed to be in contact with our site host, Kathryn, since we started this process in April. Over the past three months we have learned a lot about Camp Iskra and have had fun planning activities for the camp sessions to come. We are all thrilled to have a chance to serve in a new environment and get to know the Russian campers over the course of the summer! Part of our preparation has included creating a team name for our American group (because what is camp without camp names?!) and we proudly introduce ourselves as Team Extreme!! We have created team shirts for ourselves and our American team members we will be meeting up with in Cherepovets. We are also VERY excited to have brought Team Extreme bracelets for every kid at camp… represent!!!!
Thank you all for your tremendous support in our preparation for this amazing trip. We would love to have a solid team of people praying for us and the camp as we are away. Some ways you can be in prayer for us are:
- Safe travel and of course, health!
- Smooth transition into camp like and getting to know other camp counselors
- The hearts of the kids coming to camp; that Jesus would be a shining light through us, producing Spirit-led conversations and interactions
Despite all of our preparation, we are still not positive what would time will look like while we are over in Russia! Keep an eye out for further posts, we will try to keep you all in the loop as much as possible!
Lastly, we want to give a huge shootout to all of the UPC staff and church body who have organized such an outstanding program, shown us love and supported all the teams to get us where we are today! Another special thank you to Ryan Church and Grant Gustafson for meeting us all at the airport at THREE this morning to pray for us and send us off, you guys are awesome!
Team Extreme is OUT!!
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example to believers in speech, in love, in life, in faith, and in purity.
- 1 Timothy 4:12