5 reasons volunteering, even as a toddler mom, is WORTH IT.

For the last 20 years of my life, I have either been on paid staff, a guest worship leader or speaker, or a key volunteer at a church.

I love The Church. I love serving her, watching even the youngest ones using their gifts to edify Her.

And yes, I know that WE are The Church. It isn’t contained within 4 walls of a building. I get that and believe it with all my heart.

But, there is a pep-rally of sorts that happens, usually on the weekends, when we all choose to come together from our different neighborhoods and corners of our sub-cultures and raise a unique sound that will never be lifted again. We choose to join our hearts and minds together to celebrate, learn, commune and meditate on the person of Jesus. We see Him at work in each other, we see Him in the faces of the other, and we hopefully walk away better and more open to the voice of the Holy Spirit during the week.

Now, my niche in the world of “professional Christians”- those of us who are actually paid by our specific churches- has always been with worship, and teaching children and youth. It is a blast!!! I would ALWAYS say that I had the best job ever!

If you know me in real life, you know that it is my passion to raise up youth and children to know and love Jesus and follow Him. I especially love training them to use their gifts to teach others about Him!

When I had Elias last year, I honestly thought that I would be able to continue working at church. However, at the 6 week mark, when I was done with taking time off, I knew it wouldn’t work.

For starters, I only worked at the church for 20 hours a week, with most of those being weekend hours. I didn’t get maternity leave. I was still not making the amount of money hourly that would actually contribute to our household. And, my husband was also working for the church, so weekends were tricky when we were both pulled in opposite directions. There was also no opportunity for my position at the church to grow… so it was a pretty easy decision (on paper) to step down.

But the reality? When I knew it was my calling? Wow. So hard!

I stayed on as a volunteer on Saturday nights, which was still hard because Elias wouldn’t go to anybody. My husband would run sound most Saturday nights, so as I was in the children’s area rehearsing with my team, he was in the sanctuary and unable to help. Elias was so little, and the noise was too loud during rehearsals. I would try to take him to the nursery but he would SCREAM until he would fall asleep. It broke my heart. There were actually a few times when I “wore” Elias on my back and put his little headphones on so I could lead worship and he could be with me. He loved that!

I was always drenched by the end.

It was exhausting.

I started getting anxious as I would drive to church on Saturday nights. How would he act? Would he be ok? Would he be willing to go to anyone, or would I have to wear him?

During those few months, a few different people stepped in. One staff member would just wear him as she walked around completing her duties at the Saturday service. Another mom he knew would just take him to the nursery and sit with him so he wasn’t with strangers. I was so grateful!

However, with wanting to be at church together on Sunday, it became less and less practical to come both Saturday night and Sunday. So, I stepped down from leading kids worship right around when Elias turned a year old.

We would come with Leo on Sundays, help lead worship, and enjoy being together in one service.

And, again… people stepped in to help. We have such an amazing community!

There was a switch that happened for Elias when he started to walk at around 13 months. He was ok with not being held all the time. He was more ok going to other people.

So, here are my reasons I love volunteering, even with my toddler:

1) Church is literally his favorite place to be. Whether or not I’m leading worship with Leo, Elias walks all the way up to the front during worship, and he lifts his hands, claps and sings along.

When Elias wants to keep moving and not sit still, literally at any point, he can walk down the halls and hear worship. He has been known to walk into the 5th grade room, into the 1st-4th grade room, and even up to the screens projecting the service in our church cafe.

2) Elias loves being around other kids! He knows he is a part of a huge community, and he LOVES being a part of the different music classes I’ve taught. And the kids love him!!! They are so patient and kind. One of the best parts is that our church is filled with people of all different nationalities, languages and races. So his best buddies don’t usually look like him!

3) It solidifies for me that it truly takes a village. I’ve always loved pouring into other people’s’ kids… but my heart absolutely melts watching other people pour into my son!

4) Elias gets to watch his parents love Jesus, teach the Word, lead worship and pray for others! Now, he is starting to join in, and we want him to!

5) Last but not least: being a volunteer means that I can pick and choose the opportunities that fit best for our family. When I was on staff, I was the one who had to pick up the slack when volunteers weren’t able to show up. But now I get to choose. And I am grateful for the opportunity to choose things that fit us the best.

I am so grateful to be able to walk this amazing journey, and to now be able to serve as a family is beyond words.

The flexible nap schedule, the (sometimes) over-stimulation, the poopy diapers that need to be changed at not-so-convenient times… it’s all worth it!

The lessons of life

I have been teaching music lessons for over 20 years now, but the reality is that I can’t remember a day I wasn’t exposed to them.

My mother is an incredible musician, and she filled our home with music from the time I was a baby.  She would even take me and my sister to her students’ houses sometimes when our normal babysitters weren’t available.  I heard her students improve week after week, and I remember her sitting patiently by their sides, playing the parts for them or playing the duets.

When I was asked to teach lessons to Dr. Warren Anderson’s kids and other neighbors while I was at Judson, I could feel my mom’s voice speaking through me; her gentle encouragements and duets  flowing out of me as easily as they did from her. 

I have always loved music.  From playing the piano and violin at an early age, to playing the clarinet, bassoon, tenor sax and percussion in middle-school and high-school, to finally picking up an acoustic and bass guitar and drum set in college.  I have always had a knack for playing music by ear, as well as a love for Mozart and Beethoven.

Music was my outlet when I had no way to verbally express my emotions. I would play and sing all the time.  I can’t remember when I started writing songs, but by the time I was in high-school, I was writing arrangements of known songs as well as my own melodies and rhymes.

It has always been there. 

One of my greatest joys is teaching music to children.  Even today, I was teaching piano at The Worship Club and showed some 5th graders how to do the simple inversions from G to C and Em.  Their faces lit up!  “That’s so easy!” they exclaimed.

Yep.

I’ve often joked that if you give me music and children, I can do incredible things.  If you make me organize my house or budget… that’s a different matter. Ha!

There are so many life lessons that I love to insert into my music classes.  One of them in particular has to do with tuning the guitar. 

In the days before apps (and clip-on or installed tuners), you had to get a note from a keyboard or a different guitar that was in tune.  And while tuning to a keyboard is handy, there is something beautiful about tuning with another guitar.

You have to listen to the tuned string a few times to get it in your head before you play the un-tuned string with it.  Even the slightest dissonance can be heard, but as you bring the string into tune, the sound that was totally wobbly becomes aligned.

The first time I ever do this exercise with my students, I let them play the un-tuned string at the same time as mine, and they say that they have no idea how to fix their string.  It’s really hard!  I would have no idea how to do that, either.

But then, I have them tune my way… really listening to the string that’s in-tune first.  Then, it’s pretty easy to recognize if the un-tuned string is flat or sharp, and they love the feeling as they bring it to the exact sound as the other string.  Their faces always light up!

Then, I let them in on the lesson:

We HAVE to have the sound of the in-tune string in our ear so that we know how to get in tune.  In the same way, we HAVE to know the voice of our Creator!  If we know the voice of TRUTH in our lives, when Satan comes to try to throw us off (even in the slightest way), we will know! It won’t sound right! When we notice ourselves doing things that are different from the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we need to stop… listen carefully to the right way, and patiently allow our sounds to line-up again.

It is a powerful lesson that I’m even still learning.  Every time I tune a guitar (which is multiple times a day), it’s a heart-check.

I just read this today, and it’s what prompted this blog post:

Psalm 43:3-5 (the Passion Translation) says:

Pour into me the brightness of your daybreak!
    Pour into me your rays of revelation-truth!
    Let them comfort and gently lead me onto the shining path,
    showing the way into your burning presence,
    into your many sanctuaries of holiness.
Then I will come closer to your very altar
    until I come before you, the God of my ecstatic joy!
    I will praise you with the harp that plays in my heart,
    to you, my God, my magnificent God!
Then I will say to my soul,
“Don’t be discouraged; don’t be disturbed,
    for I fully expect my Savior-God to break through for me.
    Then I’ll have plenty of reasons to praise him all over again.”
    Yes, living before his face is my saving grace!

The Kids Worship Club

During my very first job as a music teacher/worship leader at a Christian school and church 16 years ago, I was sometimes stressed out when a new experience was put before me.

There were many things that I had never done before: lead worship from a piano with a band, write out music for orchestral instruments, write songs for the youth that would help them connect to God in worship…

…and during this first “real” season of my life is when I recorded and released my first cd. (Shameless plug… you can find it here.)

Through that amazing time of growth, one of my mentors, Ken Reynolds, would always encourage me with something HIS mentor, Gary J. Blanchard would tell him…

Whenever you’re faced with something new, simply say “Well, I’ve never done that before!”, and go for it!
We would often laugh and say that phrase to each other as a lot of transition happened in our church, and we were often called upon to step out of our comfort zones!
I am so grateful that through the various seasons of my life, I’ve had incredible people encouraging me to face the new challenges with my gifts and talents in one hand, and the power of the Holy Spirit in the other.
Here’s the deal:  my heart is creating space where KIDS can lead KIDS in worship.
I think there’s something powerful about adults stepping out of the way and letting the kids’ voices be heard.
Now, there aren’t a lot of resources out there for how to let KIDS lead.  There aren’t many schools that teach how to play chords on a piano and follow a chord chart, how to recognize chord patterns, how to play band or orchestra instruments with worship songs (using the limited notes that beginners know), how kids can hear the Holy Spirit when they are painting and drawing, how kids need to live lives of worship and not just sing or play pretty… and songwriting courses for kids are not usually something that parents have an option of signing their kids up for.
So, my heart for this was to start something, building on things Leo and I had done in the past.
But this was totally new.
And it would take a team of creatives who “got it”.
This past Worship Club (the ninth one we’d done) was no exception.
We had around 75 kids- 2nd to 8th grade.  17 teachers and 10 helpers for the 7 classes we were offering.
Our band and orchestra class alone was a challenge:  there’s a reason that violins and trumpets usually don’t play together… there are completely different notes that the kids learn on their specific instruments when they begin, let alone that they really only know a few notes!
So, either the string section would be struggling with a specific key, or the horn/woodwind section. Last year, I had incredibly talented people teach each group separately and the strings played on 2 songs, and the band played on 2 others.
This year however, those teachers weren’t available, so it fell onto me to teach them combined.  5 violins and a viola (who didn’t know how to read alto staff), 3 trumpets, 2 saxophones, 2 clarinets and 3 flutes.
It was a huge undertaking…
I’d never done this before!
The kids struggled a bit, but were so willing (and ABLE!) to overcome their obstacles.  It was amazing to watch them progress from the first week to the last, growing not only in their skill sets, but in their friendships and encouragement of each other.
In addition to my class, we had singing, dance, keyboards, media arts, guitar and percussion.
As the Lord brought the various teachers we needed to pour into the kids, He fulfilled another deep desire of my heart:
Every class had at least one minority teacher.  Some classes were even taught by gifted high-school students.
This was truly the nations worshipping together, in many different expressions of worship!
The 3rd week of the club, there was an incredible moment after our devotions.
I got up on our little stage in front of the group to practice with them as they ate their snacks.  The kids joyously sang, danced or beat on the tables as we sang “You are Good”, and “The Good Life”.
Then, as we started into the 3rd song of the set, “Good, Good Father”, the kids really “entered in”.  Hands were raised and eyes were closed as they sang their hearts out to their Father.
During that song, instead of singing the 3rd verse (which is, in my opinion,  a little hard for little minds to understand), I felt led to have people say “You’re a Good Father” in whichever language they wanted.
Around the room, like popcorn, teachers and students alike spoke… French, Spanish, Russian, Tamil, Sign language, Swahili, Kukuyu… it was absolutely beautiful!  I started tearing up in front of them, as my heart filled up with many emotions all at once!  Then, we started back into the chorus… “You’re a good, good Father… it’s who You are… and I am loved by You, it’s who I am….”.
Kids singing in full force, completely swept up in their Father’s love.
At that point, I don’t think a single teacher had a dry eye, and my face and neck were noticeably wet from my tears.  I had no voice to sing with as I was completely choked up, but it wasn’t needed because the kids just continued to sing those phrases over and over while I played my guitar.
This is why we step into un-chartered territory.
The long nights, the stressing over computer/music-writing software issues, the juggling demands of The Club with the rest of our lives and work, the “can we try this instead”‘s, the “I’ve never done this before”‘s that we uttered many times over the 5 weeks…
We do it to raise up THIS generation’s worshippers who aren’t afraid to try something new; because in taking a risk, they learn how to lead worship with their gifts and talents in one hand, and the power of the Holy Spirit in the other.

Monday, April 2nd in Zaragoza and Puerto Alegre

After another un-eventful nights’ sleep, we awoke early to a cloudy morning.  The smell of our home-made bug spray quickly filled the air, and with boots and long-sleeved shirts on, we traipsed over to eat breakfast and talk about the day.  Hector was going to return to Puerto Alegre and attend to the rest of the dental needs, while the rest of us set up for ministry and medical brigade in Zaragoza.  The kids, as always, crowded around the house where we ate… peeking in the wooden slits and pushing through the doors.  It continues to be hard for me to eat in front of them.  I always wonder what they think about us… gluttons who “need” to eat 3 times a day.  We always give them leftovers, but today it seems as though Monica made sure we cooked enough oatmeal for them to eat as well.  She told them to go get their cups, and they were back in a flash, steaming oatmeal in their cups… smiles on their faces.

As we were walking back to the house to get our supplies for the day, it started to pour.  With ponchos on, we started walking down the muddy slope to the sidewalk that led through the village.  With so many kids around, we decided to let them walk with us, under our ponchos.  I felt like a giant… my big rubber boots trying to not step on their tiny bare feet.  I learned quickly that the best way to do it was not with my head poking through the hole blindly feeling the little ones next to me, but to put my head under the tarp with them.  They were speaking in Tikuna (probably something about the giant with rubber boots), and I loved it!  When we arrived to the end of the sidewalk, I told them that it would be better for them to run up the hill to the church instead of slipping and sliding with me up the muddy hill.  They screamed and ran through the rain.  So cute!

While getting set up, I took the kids aside and taught them “Open the eyes of my heart” in Spanish. The first story of the day was about blind Bartimaeus, and we were making masks to symbolize that before we know Jesus our eyes are closed to who God really is… but after we meet Him, He opens our eyes.

Masks are almost a taboo topic here, especially with the practice of the Pelazo,  but we did this activity anyway.  The kids had a blast!

While the little ones were working away, there was a group of older boys sitting in the corner.  I had no idea how to get them involved with what we were doing, but I saw that they had a large string tied in a circle that they were doing tons of tricks with.  I asked them to teach me one, and I think they taught me the easiest one.  I went around to the different benches and showed the little ones, and they laughed.  The older boys were just watching and smiling.  Then, they tried to teach me one where you wrap the string around your neck and then pull but it comes loose.  I couldn’t get that one at all! I think my head is a little bigger than theirs! Pravaas and Daniel came around and knew a few tricks of their own, so a connection was made (an answer to prayer for Pravaas).  I left the boys to their tricks and walked around.

Our students were incredible!  Lily was painting the nails of the older girls, Laura, Sara, Mafe, Andrew and Diana were helping the kids color, Zach was taking pictures… all of us were busy either helping or talking.  The kids were SO into the craft!  They were so funny as we tied the masks on, too. Their beautiful little eyes were poking out of the slits of the mask with the most hilarious faces!

While the first activity was wrapping up, Leider and some other boys sat next to me and we started talking about the Pelazo.  Leider thinks it’s a fun tradition… even saying that his dad has made masks (which made me sick to think about) but the older boy shook his head to say “no” when I asked him if he liked it.  I encouraged him to change the tradition when he’s older.  I told him about other villages that don’t practice it anymore.  He seemed surprised to hear that.  I encouraged him again that change is possible.  We’ll see.

After the mask activity, Sara got up to teach the kids John 3:16.  They loved doing the hand motions with the verse!  Kylie and I helped out, too.  Then, Andrew got up and explained the colors for the salvation bracelets.  With great eloquence and confidence, he did it in a way that I had never heard before. He started with the gold bead, explaining what Heaven is like… the beauty, the angels, etc.  Then, he explained the dark bead that represents our sin and how that prohibits us from entering into Heaven.  He went on and carefully explained every color and then we gathered the kids in groups of 10-12 to help them with the bracelets.

I had made the mistake of not making a sample bracelet with the stretchy nylon to see how well it worked.  It was really hard.  I could get it to work, but a lot of the students had a difficult time.  But, by the end, all the kids had their gospel bracelets, and could tell the story.

Right around this time, someone came with the oatmeal and cookies for our refreshment.  The kids loved it!  They were so happy!

We got out the long balloons and pumps and started giving the balloons out to the kids.  It was hard to make the animals we had learned because the humidity made everything sticky.  But, the kids found fun things to do even with the popped balloons.  They would take the rubber and make their own popping sounds.  And, at the end of the activity, we had just enough for each kid to have their own balloon (praise the Lord!).  They went home happy!

I was burning up hot and really wanted to cool off in the river.  Batman, our boat driver, said that there was a spot on the sidewalk bridge leading to the school where there was a current making it safe to swim.  I was so excited!  After lunch, I told the kids that we were going to swim.  They were so excited!!!  I went to the river with about 30 of them, and we all jumped in together!  Not wanting to get bit, I stayed in the water while they kept jumping in and out, flipping off of anything they could.  I was amazed at how high the river had gotten! 2 years ago, we walked on the ground between the village and the school.  This year, as I jumped off the newly-constructed sidewalk bridge, I couldn’t touch the bottom of the river.

We had a blast playing in the water!  Leo came out just to take pictures and be with us.  John, one of the missionaries, and Andrew also came out and just threw the kids into the river.  They loved it!!! At first, Andrew was hesitant… but I told the kids to push him in, and about 10 kids surrounded him and he was completely defenseless!

As I was trying to keep submerged in the river, I felt a fish rub across my back, shocking me with little electric shocks.  It freaked me out so much that I jumped straight out onto the sidewalk!  So, since I was out, I thought it would be a good time to wash my hair.  I had bought a HUGE shampoo bottle for the team, and it took about 5 seconds for all the kids to surround me, holding out their little brown hands for a dab of shampoo.  They were hilarious!!!  Some kids covered their entire bodies with the shampoo suds, sculpting their hair into horns or mohawks.  They would jump and dance around on the sidewalk, making sure they had my attention, and then jump right into the river coming back to the surface squeaky clean.  Amazing how much fun they have with something so simple!

Leo decided that it would also be a good time to have them wash their hair with the lice shampoo.  We had to be very clear that it was poison so they wouldn’t get it in their eyes.  Some older boys came up to ask for the lice shampoo, saying that they had a bad lice problem.  As the kids were helping each other lather up, they started picking through each others’ heads, watching the lice die.  They got in lines about 3-4 kids deep, all picking through the infected hair.  It was really cute.  Then, after waiting 5 minutes, they all jumped in together.

We had so much fun!

We cleaned up and then loaded up the boat for our time in Puerto Alegre.  Zach and the medical team stayed behind to help with all the needs in the village.  There were many babies with fevers and people who needed attention!

The pastoral couple in Puerto Alegre asked us to have our service with them at 3:00pm so that the people wouldn’t need to be out on the river when the mosquitoes were at their worst.  So, we arrived and picked up Hector at the school. He told us he had a great day, and that the villagers had cooked him a HUGE fish for lunch.  We went to the church, unloaded the generator and speakers and realized that we were missing a cable.  So, Leo crossed back over to Zaragoza in the boat and took Hector with him so he could rest for the evening.  While we were waiting for them to get back, the villagers slowly started arriving in their little canoes.  There was no dry land to be seen, and the families were piled in together, dressed in their finest for the church service.  The pastor’s wife even showed up!

The students made more jump-ropes and they came in handy!  The kids had a blast playing the “limbo” and other games!  Kylie even connected with 4 little ones doing a miming activity.

Leo got back, and we were ready to start!  The church service went really well… the worship was beautiful, the drama and dance that the team did was well-received, and Pastor Burgos gave a great Word about love and respect in the family.  I think that even the Pastor’s wife (who was a little put-off that we weren’t wearing skirts) was encouraged.

We left with full hearts and exhausted bodies!  The women of the village, before we left, made sure that I had a gift of the local fruit, copoacu (that I love) and the dried yucca that they eat, farinya.  I was so blessed that they would give those things to me!  We really feel as though we have made friends in Puerto Alegre, and we can’t wait to go back!

We crossed the river as the sun was setting.  It was beautiful!  Again, we saw dolphins.

I could tell that most of the team was tired, so we made the decision to let them rest for the evening.  We had dinner together, and then Lauren, Liz, Kylie and I took 30 or so kids to the main community house to play and sing.  We had so much fun!  We gave them jump-ropes, they taught us their games, and we had a good time together.  After a little while, I got the guitar out and we sang and sang!  Then, they asked me to tell them a story, and I told the story of David and Goliath.  They had never heard that story before.  I told them that they are going to face many things in their lives that seem impossible to conquer… but with God everything is possible, no matter how small they feel.

Then, we said good-night.

May 31st: Zaragoza

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To see pictures from this village, go to:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151471511235215.840611.741380214&type=3&l=0093e49b4b

The day started off great!  We had a delicious breakfast of pancakes and syrup (!) at the base, and then split up again to go to the orphanage and shopping.  Leo and I had a lot of last-minute things to get, and Hector (our dentist) needed boots.  So, we walked down to the port to buy the various things we needed and couldn’t believe what we saw. There was about a foot of water covering the main road, and the people had built raised sidewalks with wood planks that we had to carefully walk on, especially if there was 2-way traffic!   We watched as cars carefully drove through the water to get to the boats, hoping that our truck bringing all the luggage and supplies would also make it.

We got back to the base, and saw everyone.  I guess Lucy at the orphanage was only expecting us yesterday, not today as well, and she already had other people visiting with different activities.  So, everyone just walked back and rested while they were waiting for us.

The theme of a lot of group trips is “Hurry up… and wait”.  This was no exception!  As soon as the truck arrived, we were strategic in how we had to pack it so that it would be easier to unload at the dock.  Then, it was time to put our boots on, lather ourselves with insect repellent, and walk the 5 blocks to the dock.

We got there a little before Monica did, so we thought we should wait for her… but the truck driver didn’t want to wait.  So we found a dry spot to put the luggage and we waited.  When Monica go there,  we hurried to load the boat up with all the heavy stuff… and then the police came and gave us some problems so we had to wait again.

I’m always wary about the police… you can never really trust them here.  Sometimes they make you wait for hours, expecting you to pay them a bribe.  Luckily, we only waited about 1 hour for them to tell us that we could leave.   Supposedly, they were worried about our boat being too heavy and over-packed.  So, when we got on, we squished together, smiled and waved as we pulled out.

Besides some random stops along the way, we finally got out on the river… just in time for a HUGE rainstorm.  Last year, the storm went completely around us and we didn’t get wet.  This year, however, we weren’t that lucky.  We went right through it, only able to see about 15 feet in front of the boat!   Most of us forgot to pack our ponchos in an accessible place, so we just got wet… at least the people that were sitting on the side where the rain was coming in.

About halfway through the 3-hour trip, we got pulled over by the river police.  As the boat had to turn around, the people on the other side got wet.  Good times! J  As it turns out, the police just wanted to let us know that they were there for us if we needed anything.  They gave us their number and some pamphlets about dengue fever, and we were off!

As we pulled up to Zaragoza, those of us who had been there in years past were in shock.  The village had become a lake!  Everything was mud, and whereas in years past we’d stayed at the school on higher ground, we decided that it would be better to stay in the village this time to allow the villagers easier access to us and the medicine.  Between the village and the school was an impassable lake.  I’m so glad we made that decision!

We un-packed the boat and set up camp in a newly built building.  It was right next to a Christian family’s house where some of the doctors were able to stay.  We could use their rain water reserve to bathe, and they had a latrine as well.  It was a really nice set-up!

The kids were waiting for us, excited that we were with them!  A few of us went to the sidewalk in front of our “house” to sing with them and tell them Bible stories.  They were little sponges, and they’d remembered everything we’d taught them from the other trips… even the songs that we’d written!  That was so cool!

After a little while, it was time to set up the movie and start inviting people; so Zach, Andrew and I took the group of kids (each fighting over who could hold our hands… or just grasp a finger), and we invited everyone to the church for the movie.  Two boys, Daivy Andres and Esteban were stuck to me like glue!  They listened to everything I said, took me to the different houses, and helped me invite people.  The sidewalks and paths we were walking on were crazy slippery and muddy, especially walking up and down the hills, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to safely go to the farthest part of the village (through some more hills) to invite people… so I sent the boys.  They LOVED doing it!  They ran up and down the hills with their little bare feet and stopped in every single house to invite people.  It was great to watch them!

We got back to the church and played some games while people arrived and the movie got set up.

The church quickly filled up with kids!  It was so good to see familiar faces!  While we were worshiping together and getting the movie started, the students were in the kitchen struggling to light a fire to cook the popcorn.  Everything was wet, and they had to use a machete to cut off the outer parts of the wood, hoping that the inner parts were dry enough to light.  It was pretty much impossible!  But, about halfway through the movie, the popcorn got delivered, and the kids loved it!

I made the mistake of under-estimating how much popcorn we would need in that particular village.  I’d bought 10 bags, but only got 3 out of the bin.  The students didn’t know that there was more popcorn, and one student in particular started to stress out a little.  I was in the church and had no idea of the crisis the students thought we were in… but Leo was helping them.  Daniel, and 11th grader, was not happy about the situation and Leo told him to pray to see what the Lord would tell him.  Daniel came back after about 5 minutes and said that he needed to get the candy he’d brought to give out.  He didn’t want the people to watch the movie without eating something.   Leo was really proud of him!

During the movie, I was able to sit on the floor in front of the girl’s section.  In these churches, most of the boys/men sit on the right hand side, while the girls/women sit on the left.  I sat right in front of 6 beautiful girls who were obsessed with the movie… and my hair!  They played with my hair, braided it, twisted it, etc. during the entire movie.  It was so much fun!

The movie we showed was “Courageous”, and it was absolutely captivating!  You know the villagers are into a movie when they talk the entire time… and they were talking!  The girls were asking me question after question… and talking amongst themselves.

Some of the boys figured out that sitting right next to my computer gave them a better view, so they crowded around it.

It was so fun to watch the villagers watch the movie.  As babies would fall asleep, the mothers would lay them on the floor, fanning them with whatever piece of cloth they had.  Kids were asleep on the benches, some even left because it was late.  We ended the movie a little early because we could tell that people were tired.  Usually, they go to bed around 6pm, and it was already 8:30pm!

When the service ended, we went back to our eating hut and had a delicious dinner.  Most of the students stayed in the kitchen for a majority of the evening… helping with the wood or fire, or just enjoying each other’s company.  I think being in the village was a shock for some of them and they just needed some time to adjust.

We all headed back to the main house to use the bathroom (peeing outside is one of my favorite things to do!), clean up (can you say baby wipes?), and rest.   I was looking forward to getting some sleep, since I didn’t get much the night before.  But, those plans were put on hold as soon as we started hearing people outside our house.

At first, I didn’t understand what was going on.  I heard 2 men and a woman talking to each other.  I woke Leo up, and we were just listening.  They were obviously drunk.  One man said something like “we’re here helping them, and they treat us like dogs.  They won’t let us into their house.  It’s not like we’re going to rob them or anything!”.  I didn’t know who these people were, or if they wanted to get into OUR house… I was a little freaked out to say the least.  I wanted Leo to get up and tell them to go away, but he had no desire to talk to a few drunk people, so we just waited and prayed.

Some of us were tempted to get out of our tents to actually see what was going on, but Leo kept whispering to us to not make any noise or draw attention to ourselves.  The people eventually left… and then came back.   3 different times I woke up to hear drunk people swearing and talking about horrible things.

It didn’t help that off in the distance we could hear the drums of the witch doctor.  Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night!

Drowning in Details

amazon_forest_trees-wide.jpgI am a person who can’t see the trees for the forest; so organizing a trip for 24 people is a little overwhelming… let alone the fact that 14 of the people on the trip couldn’t pay for the majority of the costs.  On top of the individual trip costs, we had to raise money for the medicine, supplies, and toilet project… a total of $4000 additional.   I’m also not good at coming up with crazy ideas for fundraising, especially here in Colombia, where missions and mission trips are a relatively “new” idea to most churches.

We had our annual “Celebrate Colombia” day at school, and I was able to tell all the parents about the upcoming Amazon trip and ask for their prayers and financial support.  I like talking about the trip and getting people excited about what the Lord is doing in the Amazon; but what put me out of my comfort zone was walking up to the parents after the main celebration and asking them to donate towards the trip.  I had an offering bag, and just walked up to everyone.  It made me feel so uncomfortable, but I knew that if I didn’t ask, they wouldn’t give.  We raised enough money that day to pay for 1 ½ trips! So, it was worth it… but it was hard for me!

That same day, I was talking to a mother about putting together a worship event/fundraiser for the trip.  I think I looked at her with a blank stare, wondering how in the world it could happen.  I knew we would be able to use my church, but I didn’t have time to work on getting a whole concert together!  The mom told me that if I organized it all, she would get her dance team together to help out.  There was that word again…. Organize.  As if I didn’t already have enough to organize!

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But, we did it!  The following weekend, my middle-school worship team put together a great bi-lingual worship concert, and we had an amazing time of prayer for the Amazon, Bogota, Colombia, South America and the Nations.  The community also surrounded the team and prayed specifically for us and what the Lord had for us in the Amazon.  We felt so empowered!!!  The dance team was also a great addition to everything, as they danced while we worshiped with song!  I can honestly say that the entire evening was one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of for a very long time!  And, we raised enough money for 3 more people’s trips!

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During the months of planning and preparing, the Lord was so faithful in my weaknesses!  He would continually bring people alongside to help me, as well as allow me to push myself to get better.   However, I don’t know if planning and organizing is something I should keep pushing myself to get better at, or if I should find one person who thrives on details and organization to be a part of our team.  This is my struggle now.  I can honestly say that I drown in details.  I am so much more of a big-picture person that I get lost in the tiniest of details, and it really affects me.   The tricky part is finding a person who is going to stay around for a while.  Most of the teachers at ECA stay 1-2 years… if they stay for 3, that’s a blessing!  So, I am praying that I find a Colombian who will come alongside me and commit to these trips as much as Leo and I have… for the long-haul!