US bound

Sunday, as Leo was going through immigration, he got a very stern talking-to by the immigration officer about the amount of times he’s gone in and out of the US on his resident visa.  We knew this would happen eventually, but we didn’t realize the gravity of it until the immigration officer explained that Leo only has a “conditional” resident visa, not a permanent one; and that when he has to get it renewed in December, Immigration will take a look at his activities to see whether he should be granted a permanent resident visa.  The officer was blunt in saying “I don’t think they’ll renew it if you don’t actually LIVE here.”

Needless to say, Leo was pretty shaken up, and called me right away.  He also wrote to a friend of ours who is an immigration lawyer in Florida to ask for some advice.  Our friend confirmed what the immigration officer said.  We need to live in the States, asap.

It’s not even been 36 hours since we’ve been praying and getting counsel from dear friends and family, and we feel at peace that the Lord has directed this sudden move.  A year ago, our plan was to come to the States this summer so that Leo could go to grad school.  Things kept changing, and it got harder for us to decide when we were going to head to the States.  We’re in deep in many different ministries and wanted 1 more year to transition out well.  But, it seems like whether or not Leo is in grad school this Fall, the Lord wants us in the States.

We have a little bit of an idea of what we’re going to do, and how we’re going to “transition”.  The plan is that Leo is going to come back down to Colombia on July 13th to help finish packing and saying goodbye to our church, friends and family.  Right now, we’re looking at him going back on July 20th to follow-up on job applications we’ll be turning in this week.  I am going to stay a little longer to help with orientation and setting up things for whomever is going to replace me at ECA, and say goodbye to the students and teachers.  I hope to be back in the States on August 8th.

For the time-being, we’re going to live with my parents.  We have a HUGE basement apartment, and they have a car we can borrow.  The idea is that we’ll hopefully either rent or buy something in the Columbus area by September to prove that we’re sticking around a little bit.  We are both going to be looking for jobs as well.  Leo is looking for teaching Spanish or Music lessons in nearby community colleges or Universities.  I’m probably going to get a part-time job at the local Christian bookstore.  We’ll see.  I’m still not completely healthy, so I shouldn’t do more than part-time so I can continue to rest and hopefully get better.

Leo will apply for his visa renewal, and they could deny it.  If they deny it, we’ll be back down in Colombia and have to start the resident process all over again. We’re hoping that by taking these drastic measures in moving to the US, they won’t deny it.   If they renew it, we will need to be in the States for a solid year, without leaving.

As you can probably imagine, this is not going to be easy.  We have 3 weeks to pack-up and move, and a lot of decisions need to be made.

You can join us in praying for the following:

1) That we make the most of the remaining 9 days until Leo comes back down.  That I can be focused and do everything possible to pack and organize.

2) That God gives peace to all the people we are leaving behind: our dear friends, the worship team and our church, the indians Leo has been heavily investing in, ECA, Leo’s family, and the ministries that I have been involved in (especially my ECA students).

3) That if God wants the ministries we’ve been running to continue, that He will provide the people to step in.

4) Wisdom with what to pack and what to leave behind

5) Provision when we get to the States.  We know for sure that we will need a car, and that Leo will need a job that provides insurance.  Also, pray for our housing situation.

Right now, our plan is to live in the states until Leo can get his citizenship… anywhere from 1 1/2-3 years.  After that goal is met, we’ll re-evaluate where the Lord would have us.  Obviously, we’re hoping that He will bring us back to Colombia; but, especially after something like this, we realize that we have no idea what the Lord has for us, and our only prayer is that He would continue to be the lamp to our feet and light to our path… revealing just the very next step we should take.

There are so many things we have been looking forward to about our “eventual” time in the States… our church, the community of friends we have through our church, possibly going to seminary, learning how to minister together in the States, being close to my family for a while, living out the 4 seasons… the list goes on and on.  We’re so grateful that we have these things to be excited about!

So, please join us in praying for this next adventure.

Colombia to the US!  Ha!

Amazon Video 2012

Amazon Video 2012

Just found a link to the video that Lauren Januzik made for the Amazon trip.  If you’re interested, you can view it here:

Amazon Video 2012

Just found a link to the video that Lauren Januzik made for the Amazon trip.  If you’re interested, you can view it here:

9th grade service trip to Ciudad Bolivar

As I write this today, I’m exhausted, emotional, and there is a non-ending list of things I need to do before I can rest tonight.  But, I need to take a break before this up-coming graduation/ end-of-the-year-celebration totally consumes every last drop I have and reflect on how incredible this week has been so far. 🙂

This past year, once a month, the 9th graders have taken an hour-and-a-half bus ride with me to the very south of the city – up winding, broken roads; we pass shacks, piles of garbage and stray dogs and children to a little dirt side-street where our ministry house is.  Ciudad Bolivar, in the past, was known as one of the most dangerous parts of the city.  Even this year, there has been limited guerrilla activity up on the mountain where we serve; but, Saturday mornings are relatively safe, and we arrive ready to love on the kids who live in the every-day dangers that come with being displaced.  The students have struggled, grown, and been completely challenged as they’ve learned to love on these kids who are so different from them.


At ECA, we dedicated the last week of school to mission and service.  The 9th and 10th graders do something special with the children they’ve been serving all year; 11th grade usually takes a trip outside the city to work in a poor school; and 12th grade takes their Senior trip, incorporating some kind of service.  Two years ago, because transportation in a city of 10-11 million people is ridiculous, we decided that the class that partners with the ministry in Ciudad Bolivar would spend 1-2 nights in that part of the city, in a safe barrio.


I will be honest, on top of everything else that’s been going on, it hasn’t been easy planning this particular trip.  There are many parents who love seeing how their children are changing and growing through the different service opportunities they’ve had; but they, unfortunately, aren’t the parents I hear from the most.  The 2 weeks leading up to this trip, I felt beaten down and broken.

I think that’s why I value what God did in all of us during the trip.  It was challenging for many reasons (we had a puker on our team the first night… and I’m a sympathy puker… not a good combination.  ha!), but the class united and not only served hundreds of kids, but served each other in beautiful ways.  I also got to have some great one-on-one time with some of the girls.  I was their small-group leader last year, and it was wonderful to get caught up and hear how they are growing this year.

Anyway, instead of sharing more of my words, I want to put up a few responses the students wrote yesterday when we got back to school.  They’re pretty cool! 🙂

From Maria Jose:


This service week was a very special week, where we as 9th graders could learn new things about
our city, and have our eyes open to the reality of some people, and we could help and be a testimony in
this people’s life. I was able to connect with a little girl who was about 5 years old. At the beginning she
was very shy but after a while she talked to me and told me how her mother and step father would hit
her and not show any kind of love towards her. I was very shocked and decided to talk to her about God
and trying to teach her and show her real love and care. I will keep praying about her because she
impacted my life. I learned about God that if we do things in his name, and show people that God is with
us, he will always help us and protect us and be with us. We had very special and unique times with the
class where we bonded together and got to meet each other more. I will never forget this week since it
was a very special time for me since I learned about people and how they suffered or some of the
situations in their life, where I was able to help, but also how 9th grade got closer as a class and to God.

From Juan David:


This service week was of great impact in my life. I could see how blessed I am to have everything I need,
a house, food, clothes, and more importantly a home, and I am not grateful enough. The rage in most
of the kids stood out to me. You could see the pain they were feeling by the way they looked at us. This
impacted me because I can only imagine the things that the children have had to experience, and they
are situations that WE don’t usually experience. Every single kid was different but one of the kids that
most impacted me was named Alejandro. It is the kid I’m holding in the picture above. He was very
violent as soon as I saw him; he wanted to hit Carlos and called him offensive names. But when he saw I
was giving kids piggyback rides he wanted me to give him one and from then on he didn’t want to leave
me. This happened during lunch. Then when I was in the Bingo section he was disruptive and wouldn’t
let anyone talk, and would keep hitting Carlos. Some classmates were trying to hold him but he would
just respond with more violence and throwing a tantrum. I tried to calm him down by talking to him, I
tried to reason with him and told him to sit down with me, and he grabbed me by the hand sat me down
on a chair and sat on my lap. He was quiet the rest of the class and told me some stories. I realized these
kids just need someone that cares for them. I want to remember this whole experience; every single
detail was good for me to grow as a Christian and as a person. But I especially don’t want to forget how
some people are just seeking love instead of material things.

From Manuela:

There were a lot of nice moments and things that I learned about in this service week. It was a
very special time that I could share with my class and serving others. A moment in service that really
impacted me was when there was this little boy about 6 years old called Alejandro that was really
misbehaved but at the same time he was really cute. At first he wouldn’t do anything we told him to
and he would just be really rude and say very disrespectful things to us and everyone would try to make
him behave but he wouldn’t. But I tried to be really loving to him just be there and pay attention to him
and at the end he would be extremely sweet and kind with me and everyone and he didn’t want to let
go of me when the activity was over. This was very special to me because I could see that sometimes all
someone needs to feel better is for someone to be nice to them and show them love and that can really
change someone. Something that I learned about our class was that even though sometimes we fight, if
we set our minds towards doing something good and that pleases God, we can do really amazing things
that can impact people´s life for a long time. Something I always want to remember is when we were
doing the mural and putting a lot of effort on it and a little kid passed by and said how beautiful it was
because it taught me how doing something nice to someone, can not only be good for that person but it
can also impact other people´s life.

From Cielo:

Three days of service, are three days to get to know one another as a class. For me serving taking the
pictures at the first foundation we went at was really fun, because I got to see how everyone has their own
talent and they use it to bless others. Even with horrible outfits or doing things we didn’t want to our heart of
service and love for the children where immense. The children we worked with are people that don’t have the
same life and opportunities as we do, but they enjoy every little detail that for us isn’t important. As we played
with the small group the plans changed, we went from bingo to carrying children around. That moment were
even in the simple things as serving with joy, hugging, and playing with those children is the one that impacted
me, because just looking at the smiles in those faces made me realize that in the simple is the great, and that
these kids really are in need of God. We were there to share that with them and make a moment of their day
fun no matter what the reality they live in is. As a class we grew as in every way. It was a great experience to see
how united we are and how much God is doing with our class. I learned that we care, we understand, and we
are really patient with one another, but what I most like is that my class is like a big family with different people
that care for each other no matter the way they are.

From Vanessa:

Something that stood out to me during service was the day that we were painting all day. It was a day of really
hard work but we never gave up and it was definitely worth it. I liked to see the change from brick old brown wall to
colorful and beautiful wall showing God’s word to other people. Someone I met that really impacted me was when I was holding a small baby girl and singing to her a worship song. She was very quiet and calm when I hold her, but once I had to let her go, she was very upset. The little baby girl would not let go of me at all. Her sister had to pull her away from me as the baby was crying. I showed the baby love and she liked it, which is why she didn’t want to let go of me. It impacted me because it showed me that even the smallest and slightest amount of love is enough to show God’s love through you and make them feel special. I was holding her and singing to her songs and by this, I was showing love to her and it was something that she probably doesn’t feel every day. I want to remember the experience of showing love like painting the wall, without getting anything back just like Jesus did when he died in the cross for us.


From Santiago:

I really liked the moment when I played with the three kids. It made me think about
them and remember experiences about my own life. I think every child at that age should
have a manly, paternal, figure in their life to affirm their identity. That’s why these children
like to play violent stuff and make everything they do or see violent. First, I thought I shouldn’t
play violent games with them, because I could’ve been showing them violence; but then I
understood that every child at this age needs a manly figure in their lives. I also grew up in
Ciudad Bolivar so I started to remember things about my childhood and how I used to walk
in that streets playing just like these kids played. That’s why I think this moment and these
children, that I met, stood and will stand out for a lot of time in my memory.


Glory to God!  Now, on to my un-ending list…..

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.

Malaria and other bad news



Leo talked to Monica today.  Monica is the YWAM missionary we work with in the Amazon.  She’s an incredible woman, and we love her passion for the villages!  She just got back from a 2-week trip farther into Peru than we go, and let us know of some really big challenges the villages are facing.

Rainy season started 6 weeks early.  That means that everything is flooded, and the villages where we are going can only go from place to place by canoe.  They’ve lost most of their crops already, and the fishing is sparce.  Also, as the river gets higher and higher, it creates lakes or inlets where the water doesn’t flow… so the water becomes a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.  Where Monica was, the people were in absolute misery.  Most of them didn’t have any more food, and everyone was getting sick.  There were people dying left and right from different water and mosquito-borne illnesses.  She assured us that it wouldn’t be that bad where we were going, but to prepare ourselves.  She recommended that we start taking anti-malarial medication as well.

I will be honest… that report has knocked me down a little bit today.  I don’t know what to think.  I had an “emergency” meeting with my team to let them know.  We prayed and cried together.  Part of me is scared, but the other part of me is sad that our brothers and sisters are going through things like this!  I know what it is to suffer, but not in comparison to what they are suffering!  Last year we found out that every mother had lost at least one child to sickness.  It was a part of their lives.

And, as far as malaria goes…. it’s been almost 7 years since I had it.  Malaria.  My doctor recommended that I wait 5 years to go to an area that has malaria, so technically I’m o.k.  However, my body is still suffering from the damage that was done 7 years ago, and I don’t think I can handle getting it again.  So, this is my internal struggle.  I trust the Lord with my life or death… with blessing or suffering.  I have been trusting Him for the last 4 years with all the different health issues I’ve been going through… but I am honestly ready for a break from it all.  The thought of possibly facing another bout with malaria doesn’t excite me, but it doesn’t hinder me, either.  I think it’s interesting that we bought the tickets on Friday, and today, Monday, is when we get this news.  God is sovereign and in complete control.  We, as a team, are trusting Him whether He protects us or not, and we feel honored to be able to partner with our brothers and sisters in their suffering.  We are going to face a lot of “inconveniences”, like pooping in a bag among other things, but we will experience what our friends experience, and that means the world to us!

The flooding also means that we will not be able to put in the latrine toilets like we thought, because there is no ground to build on.  God has a plan with this, however, and we will trust Him.  The money that we had raised for this project will now go to help buy the medicine.  We didn’t have enough money to do everything, anyway.  God is good!