The blessing of receiving part 1

When Leo and I were dreaming about our wedding in Colombia, we deeply desired for as many people to attend as possible – including the kids from Ciudad Bolivar.  Every 2 weeks we would make the 2-hour bus trek across the city, through traffic, up the steep mountainside and windy roads to the top of the mountain to share life and Jesus with a group of 15 pre-teens.  Many of them came from broken families… and almost none of them had ever attended a wedding before.

We asked the director of the foundation where the group met how we could make this possible… what would we need to provide so that they didn’t feel like “less” in the sea of wealthier Colombians and foreigners.  He advised us to find dresses and suits, dress shoes, and a van for transportation.  He and the other volunteers would be able to pick the kids up, get them all fancy (make-up and nail polish was a MUST for the girls).  I was able to find enough pearl-beaded headbands for all of the girls coming from different worlds so that they all matched.

Leo and I spent weeks scouring the city for the best deals on dresses and suits.  People from the school willingly donated clothing and shoes for the cause, and the week before our wedding we were able to take everything up the mountain to the kids.

I had never seen girls light up and twirl so much in my life!

Before we gave them these gifts, however, we wanted to make it clear:

“We are giving you these things now because we deeply want you to be involved in our wedding, but it doesn’t mean that you will always just be recipients of good things.  There will come a day when you will be able to give as well.  That is what the body of Christ is… a group of people committed to giving and receiving from each other.”

We looked into each of their eyes as we gave them their new outfits, and we knew that they understood.

Fast-forward to our wedding day…

Leo had just arrived to the venue in a taxi, dressed to the 9’s, and with his suitcase for the honeymoon.  Just as he got out and turned back to pay the fee, the driver sped off, stealing Leo’s suitcase.

Now, living with 3 brothers has its advantages… one being that you can all share clothes.  When I realized that Leo moving out would mean taking some of the family wardrobe, I decided that he might need his own, new clothes.  Also, he didn’t have much of a “warm weather” wardrobe… so all of the clothes in the suitcase were brand-new.  Praise the LORD the only items in the suitcase were clothes and shoes, and not money or our tickets for the honeymoon!

When word of this got around (and word spread very quickly amongst our 200 guests!), they decided to take up an offering for us so that we could buy Leo some new clothes.

I will never forget when Jhan walked up to Leo during the reception:

Jhan: Profe, I want you to have this (pulls out a bill that is now the equivalent of $.30)

Leo: What is this for?

Jhan: Profe, I want to help you buy new clothes.  You gave me this suit, it is my turn to give back

Leo and I both hugged him, looked into each other’s eyes and teared up.

He understood!

We have had many people give us things over the years, but that gift is one of the most treasured!

Community amidst the chaos

If the last 5 weeks since we decided to move to the US have been chaotic, then these past 8 days have been a complete whirlwind.

2 Saturdays ago, I went to Ciudad Bolivar for the very last time, bringing my girls back up North with me for our very last sleep-over.  We had a blast, as usual, and it was a very bitter-sweet time.  I was faced with the reality that these beautiful girls that I’ve known since they were 9-13, are now beautiful teenage girls living in a world where teen pregnancy and boyfriends that are 10+ years older than them is a constant reality…. whether I like it or not.  Instead of our usual running around and playing games, they were glued to cell-phones and opted for more one-on-one time with each of their “profe’s”.  Conversations about dreams, goals, how to get out of Ciudad Bolivar and whether it was really o.k. to allow men of 25-28 years old call them and give them gifts abounded.

(They are not MY girls… they are the Lords.  He is with them, as He always has been.  Please, Lord, let them continue to hunger and thirst for you.)

We had a laid-back Sunday morning, as the girls all took turns taking nice, hot showers and eating breakfast.  The living room was filled with all our extra mattresses, and there was plenty of popcorn and kernels from the night before all over the place!  We cleaned the best we could before trying to head out the door.

As soon as the door opened for us to leave, the phone rang and it was our land-lord.  He was asking if we would be at the apartment later on, because he wanted to show it to someone who was interested in buying it.  At this very moment, around 20 different questions entered my mind: Can I tell him to wait until we get the place cleaned up a little bit?  Is the person buying it going to keep the contract with ECA?  What the heck are we going to do?  etc….

Leo stayed behind to clean the apartment, and I set off with the girls for church.  It was youth Sunday, and I really didn’t want them to miss it.

I wasn’t disappointed. The youth were in charge of EVERYTHING, including being ushers, leading worship, dancing and preaching.  Worship was energy-filled and even as we walked in the building, the atmosphere was different.  My girls observed at first, and then later participated; and as I looked down the row at them singing their hearts out to Jesus, my heart was full.  We pulled into a little circle and as their teachers, we took turns praying for them… for their hearts to continue to fall more and more in love with Jesus.   We were all in tears, and I know that one of my girls who has had the most resistant and rebellious heart truly gave her brokenness, dreams, and life to Jesus that morning.

I knew I made the right decision to not wear make-up that morning!

Upon getting to the apartment, Leo told me that the land-lord did indeed stop by with someone to look at the apartment, and that they were critiquing every single carpet stain.  I found out later that the contracts here can only be broken with 3 month anticipation or else the land-lord has to pay a fine.  The only way out of it is if they prove that the apartment isn’t being taken care of the way they would like it to be, and then they have every right to break the contract.  Good times.

So, at school on Monday, I was processing with the elementary principal, who happens to be a very dear friend, about the idea of just selling everything.  The idea of our impending fresh start in the States, only to come back to Colombia and start fresh down here again in a few years didn’t really excite me.  She shared with me her own similar story of when her family had to move to Mexico for a few years so her husband could further his studies, and how the Lord worked things out to the very last detail on both ends for her family of 5.  She encouraged me to let it all go.

So, Tuesday and Wednesday we started packing up some things and getting ready for our huge sale.  Thursday morning, Vicky McCollum came by and helped bring order and display to the crazy piles that I had started, and then brought lunch.  Beth let her maid come to our place to clean… and clean she did!  She spent all morning just deep-cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen, while I was emptying out everything and putting it in the living room to be sold… dishes, baking goods, appliances, etc.  Leo told the guards, gardeners and cleaning ladies in our apartment complex to stop by to look, and it began.

Beth stopped by later on that afternoon to see how everything was going, and she just stood there, in shock and disbelief.  It would take a miracle for this to happen in 5 days.

Praise the Lord that He is the God of the impossible.

We sold everything that mattered, and still got to say good-bye to people, and serve for one last time here together.  These last 5 days have been the most emotionally, physically, and mentally draining days of my life so far, but the Lord was so faithful to put people in our path to encourage us, lift us up, and even feed us! 🙂

Yesterday afternoon, 3 of the cleaning ladies from ECA stopped by to check out what we had left… it wasn’t much, but they were happy.  Our conversation went like this:

“Profe, how much for this?” holding up a pillowcase.

“Please, just take it… take anything and everything you want.”

“No, profe… how much?”

“Seriously, just take it.”

“Profe, we want to help you, too.  Please let us pay you something so we can help you.”

“O.k.  Each item is 500 pesos.” (the equivalent of .25)

“Thank you, profe!”

They proceeded to fill up bags of anything and everything, and between them they bought the equivalent of $8.50, but then took so much of our “free stuff”, that they just gave me back the rest of the $1.50 in change that I’d just given them.

We are so grateful that the Lord used this apartment to bless people one last time, even in the midst of the craziness.

We now have money to start over with in the States.

And, stuff is just stuff.

We love our ECA and church communities, and yesterday was a beautiful picture of how we really take care of each other and hold each other up.

At 4:00 pm, we still had a TON to do… finish packing, weigh the suitcases and re-arrange them, tear down Leo’s studio, clean, throw stuff away, etc.  Between 4:15-5:15, an army of 10 people came by to help.  They weren’t emotionally attached to our stuff, so they had no problem throwing things away.  Where Leo and I were exhausted and overwhelmed, they came alongside us and finished the job.  They worked until 7:30 and left us with nothing more than our packed bags and air mattress, and a few things that others were going to pick up either later that night, or today after we leave.

There is no way that would have happened without them.

Watching all of them work yesterday reminded me of the story in Exodus 17 where the Israelites were fighting against the Amalekites.

“8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” 10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

These last few days, with everything from selling our blankets on Saturday and having people from our church loan us theirs so we could sleep well, to Beth loaning us her air mattress on Monday night when we sold our last mattress at 10pm and didn’t know where we would sleep, to Lauren packing our socks and underwear that I’d kept out so that the students didn’t have to touch them, to the rest of the army who came and did things that we would NEVER had been able to do on our own, to the McCollums who let me crash their place at random times with random requests, to new parents at ECA today who shared with me similar stories of having to leave a place they love only to start all over again in a new country…

We are so grateful to all of you.

You held our arms up when we were weak so that the task before us could be accomplished.

A dear friend once said that God’s Word and presence in our lives should be enough for us.  He is totally enough.  But, the fact that He allows us to share life with others is such a gift, and we should always be grateful.

Our time with you, no matter how short, has been a gift – and we will always be grateful.

We love you.

Beauty in the brokenness

Yesterday, Leo and I had the privilege of participating in a mission trip here in Bogota.  Some friends (via facebook) were here working with the special needs orphanage that ECA partners with, and asked if we had time to go along with them.  We jumped at the chance!

So, with 10 of us crowded into an 8-passenger van, we set off.  We had a good 1 1/2 hours to get acquainted, get lost, find our way, and get to the orphanage, set high above the city.  I’ve sent my students there over the years, but never had the chance to go myself, so this was a pain-free ministry to visit… still a productive trip as far as “work” goes, but no memories to hover over our time there.   I was really in need of something like that.

Being a school day, most of the able-bodied kids were out studying.  So, the only kids there were the severely disabled and the babies.  As we walked into the room of the older kids, most of whom couldn’t move much besides their faces, it was a little hard to take in.  Bones twisted, faces contorted, drooling, snot, i-v feeding tubes, complete helplessness.  But, as we walked around and greeted each child, some responded to our touch on their exposed arms or their foreheads.  Others smiled with wide eyes gazing into ours.  One little blind boy just started giggling hearing us come closer.  He was so precious!

One little girl, about 8 years old was being fed her lunch in a high-chair.  As Becky and I came closer, she just started laughing and laughing.  We smiled back, and then out from underneath the tray, she pulled a Bratz doll with brown eyes and blonde hair.  She handed it to me with her one good hand, and pointed to the doll and then to me…. then to the doll and to Becky.  We realized that she thought we looked like her precious little bratz doll because of our hair and eye color.  So smart that one!

We finished with our greeting and then continued with our tour around the complex.  Clean.  Shining.  Smelling of disinfectant.  Hundreds of items of clothes hung on the lines to dry.  Pictures on the walls of this beautiful 150-member family.  Crosses.  Teddy bears.  Therapy rooms.  Dentist chairs.  Playground.  Sunlight.  Beauty.

Our tour left us on the very top floor with the babies.  Beautiful lives born to horrible situations of abuse and abandonment.  Blind, deaf, contorted, stiff, smiling babies.  We held, played, tickled, sang with and loved on these precious little ones.  Leo said that he knows he truly saw miracles and angels.

Right before lunch, while we were checking out the dentists’ office, Becky was standing on a chair to get a better look and then jumped off, rolled her foot saying she heard something “pop”.  We called the physical therapist who was there working with the kids, and she said that we definitely needed to take her to the hospital.  Leo and I split up the group, called the driver, and Leo was off with Becky, her husband, and Brooke to the emergency room.   As we were talking with the care-takers about how the rest of us could get home later on, they confirmed that as long as something didn’t happen with one of the kids, we would have a ride.

Then, stories about how many of the kids have been told they were going to die, but yet lived for years… other kids with emergency situations who died in the hospital waiting rooms because no one saw the value of their life… doctors with compassion whose hands were tied up in hospital politics.  Our conclusion:  they need a hospital or doctors on staff for their kids.  People who see the same value in these precious little lives.

My afternoon was filled with 2 little girls.  Lina is an older black girl who can’t move anything besides her face.  Her beautiful chocolate eyes widen as you get close, and her smile shows off all of her beautiful white teeth… even the ones in the back.  I sat with her as she laid on her bean-bag and sang, clapped, smiled, talked, and prayed over her.  Her bones were so twisted that I didn’t know which leg was which, and although her body was lifeless, her face was full of expression and life.  She was beautiful.

As I was sitting with her, all of a sudden Camila came scooting over to me. I didn’t know her disability earlier when I saw her in the high-chair, but now I could see that she had braces on her legs, and used her one good arm to propel herself wherever she needed to do.  She sat close, and one of the nurses said that she wanted to walk with me.  So, I lifted her up, held her by her fore-arms, and we walked and danced.  We both laughed and laughed.  It seemed that she didn’t care where we went, she just wanted to walk… so we went back and forth in the huge space.  My back was killing me after about 30 minutes of this, so I told her that I needed to sit down.  She didn’t seem to like that, until I told her that we were going to race.  I scooted myself all over that floor, up, down, around, taking short-cuts around the different kids in their wheely chairs.  We were laughing so hard!   It was amazing.

We had time to talk with “Hermana” before we left.  She took us to the manager’s office, and as the door opened, we saw that it was a little chapel.  She said “this is request and complaint department”.  She said that absolutely nothing in this orphanage would happen without time spent with the “manager”.   She went on to tell us that years ago, when she felt like the Lord was calling her to open a home for children, she sat in the corner and said, “God, if you want me to do this, You’re in charge.  You are responsible for feeding these kids, You are responsible for bringing them to me, You are responsible for everything they need.  You do those things, and I will love them and be a good steward of what you give me.”  1,000 kids, 7 homes, a special-needs school, a farm, and a vacation home with a pool and facilities for the kids later, all because of God’s faithfulness.

She is the Mother Teresa of Bogota.

There are stories after stories of miracles, provision, changed lives, heart-break, difficulty and success, and she knows it’s all the Lord’s.  They’re His kids, it’s His work.  She’s just a lady loving the least of these the best way possible.

I’m SO excited that our 9th graders are going to be partnering with this ministry for the next 3 years.  Lives are going to change.

Oh, and one more thing:

22 years ago, Hermana adopted a little girl whose mom threw her up against the wall when she was 2 months old because she wouldn’t stop crying.  This little para-plegic girl who can’t do anything but make noises and use her eyes to communicate is going to graduate from high-school this year.  She wants to study medicine and start a school for others like her.  There is a special computer with a special program where people just like her can read books and then turn the pages of the books with their eyes.  She’s been tested and is more than capable to use this program.

The world is open to her.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  Gen. 50:20

He goes before us…

Deuteronomy 31:8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

This verse was told by Moses to Joshua and the Isrealites just as they were crossing the Jordan river into the promised land.  They had been wandering in the desert for 40 years because of their doubt the first time around; and finally the Lord was giving them what He had promised… and what they had been desiring.

I think it’s interesting that even though the Lord had been guiding them to this point for so long, they were still afraid.  Moses had to say these exact three phrases two times in his speech:  “The Lord Himself goes before you”, “He will never leave you or forsake you”, and “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”. They knew that this final step was God’s plan for them, yet they were still afraid.  I can relate!

I love teaching middle-schoolers!  They’re hilarious, random, able to understand humor, and about as ADD as I am at times.  We have a blast!  But, when I’m teaching them, I know that I need to repeat the main points (usually more than once… ha!).  Everyday, as I’m teaching, I have them repeat the main points after me, sometimes in a loud voice, so I know that it’s sinking in.  Even in our worship songs, I like having songs that repeat main points.  It allows the truth to really sink in… to our bones.  “How He loves”  and “No sweeter name” were some of the favorite worship songs this year in middle school for that reason… we allowed those truths to envelop us.

As I was sitting, thinking about Moses’ speech this morning, I couldn’t help but think how I would encourage a multitude of ECA elementary and middle-schoolers, the kids in the different ministries around Bogota, the kids in the Jungle… the people I was called to minister to the last 5 years.  I would definitely repeat those 3 main phrases, and have them say it out-loud with me. I would have them visualize what those specific phrases mean to them. There would probably be hand motions involved.

And then, I thought about myself and how I need to be reminded of those very important phrases these next few weeks… today… this minute. I probably don’t need hand motions, though. 🙂

Praise God that He’s promised to go before us (believing in an omni-present God, we know that He is already there, working things out in advance for us).

Praise God that He will never leave us or forsake us!

Praise God that because of His presence in our lives, we don’t have to have fear or be discouraged.  Perfect love casts out all fear, and He is the joy and lifter of our heads!

One of my favorite quotes that I often give to people who are in transition is:

The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it His presence and His promise. — Brennan Manning

There are so many things to be grateful for in this process:

That Leo is with our dear friends, Jonny and Suzie Pineda, another bi-cultural ministry couple (now a family!), who did what we’re about to do 3 years ago.  Leo is soaking up all the time with them… asking them the hard questions about leaving behind family, friends and ministry, and what it’s like to start all over again, trusting God to lead him as the head of our family.  Hard questions.

That there are wonderful women here that have spent hours on the phone with me through my tears encouraging me, kicking my butt, praying for me, and offering to help, etc.

That I got an email today from our mission pastor’s wife (also our small-group leader) from Vineyard Columbus informing me that because of the great need for immigration counseling within our church body (there are over 100 nations represented!  We love our church!), she is sending our case to someone we can talk to when we get to the States!  This is a huge relief to both of us!

That ECA is going to be able to rent our apartment to other missionaries, so we don’t have to pack up everything.

That Leo’s dad is coming over on Friday and Saturday to help fix random things around the apartment that we haven’t had time to fix.

That God cares about us so much that He would make it absolutely clear which way we should go!  We’d been praying all year that He would give us direction; and while we didn’t ever imagine He would answer us in this way, He did.  He heard our prayers and answered them!

There are so many things to be thankful for!

You can continue to pray for these specific things:

Good-byes (especially Leo’s family… it hit them pretty hard!)

My focus in sorting and packing (I’m really having a hard time with this… I need help!)

That God would continue to speak to Leo while he’s in the States with our friends

That if God wants the outreach, missions and worship ministries at ECA to continue, that He would put it on people’s hearts to step up to the task.

That God would rise up another worship leader at our church to replace Leo.

That God would rise up someone to continue working with Leo’s indian group.

That we (I) would stop worrying about all of the above.  Ha!

Thank you all so much for your encouragement and prayers for us!

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!

Amazon update! :)

IMG_3680Hello friends,

I am so sorry that I haven’t communicated very well the last few months.

I was doing a good job with our blog until around November, and if you’re interested in what was going on during the fall, you can check it out here:

We had a GREAT Christmas break! We went on a week-long vacation with Leo’s family, and I got to experience Christmas eve in a whole new way… dancing and celebrating all night. It was a change from my family’s yearly (more somber) Christmas concert and candle-light service!

The most important part of our break was that it was really a break! I had a lot of work to do at the school, but Leo forbade me from going in (in a loving way, of course!). So, we had 3 weeks of rest and relaxation. It was the first time in a year that we weren’t leading a trip or traveling during our vacation time.

This semester has started off well! We took the 8th grade girls on an extreme overnight camping trip, and had a blast! One of my girls even proudly exclaimed “Mrs. Morales!!! I just peed in the wilderness for the first time!”. Hilarious! I’m so blessed to be able to mentor and disciple this group of girls this year. They were my 5th grade class just a few years back, and it’s been a joy to watch them grow into incredible young women as the years have passed!

You can see pictures from our trip here:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151234670150215.809103.741380214&type=3&l=ffedfc725b

Last weekend, we were able to take some of our kids from Ciudad Bolivar on an overnight retreat out of the city. These are the kids we’ve been working with the last 4 years, and when we started with them they were 9-13 years old, and there were thirteen of them. Now the youngest is 13, the oldest is 16, and there are only 7 of them that have continued coming to the ministry. It was the first time some of them had ever left the city, and they loved it! One of the kids had never even been in a pool before! We had great conversations about what it is for us to live out our faith daily, and how to trust the Lord in all circumstances. If you’ve been following the blog where I mention these kids from time to time, you know that they are all on our hearts, and it was great to just bless them and spend quality time together! We loved it!

You can see pictures from our time together here:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151283012775215.814510.741380214&type=3&l=c2a9a486db

And, it’s time for us to head back to the Amazon! We have just a little over a month and a half before we set out for our 3rd time to partner with YWAM in the work that they are doing in various villages along the river.

We have some financial and physical needs for this year’s trip, if you are interested in helping out. 🙂
1) We will be taking 4 doctors, and 4 dentists with us to do a medical brigade, and we need an additional portable dental chair. We can buy one here in Colombia for about $1,200.

2) Out of 8 members of my ministry team, 5 need some serious financial help. 2 of our doctors also need some help with the trip cost. The total cost of the trip, per person, is $400.

3) We are partnering with a middle-school group out in Portland, Oregon to help raise the funds for putting in latrine toilets in one of the villages, Puerto Alegre. Last year, when we got to this village, 4 babies had died in 2 weeks because of lack of sanitation and fresh water. We are involving another village that is a lot better off to come help put in the latrines and share the Gospel with this tribe… in their own language. We are really excited about this portion of our trip! We are paying for the gas for the boats of the visiting village, and the gas for the chainsaws to cut down the wood for the latrines, in addition to the purchase of around 40 latrine toilets. The total for this project is around $1,000. We are hoping that the group from Portland can raise this for us!

4) We will be taking much-needed medicine and toothbrushes and toothpaste with us as well. Last year, we bought around $1,000 worth of medicines here in Colombia and were able to serve around 800 families… most of which had around 4-5 kids at least. It was amazing! We had anti-parasite meds, children’s tylenol for their fevers, vitamins, anti-fungal cream, eye-drops, cough medicine, and a whole host of other medicines that are specific to the needs there in the jungle. We are still in need of donations for the purchase of medicine and toothbrushes and toothpaste this year.

4) Leo will be going to the States in March to collect donations and buy whatever else we need that we can’t get here in Colombia. We are looking for people who would be willing to donate boxes of Clif bars, crystal light, insect repellent and powdered gatorade. We also need Nalgene bottles and old or used long-sleeve button-down shirts to layer over our tank-tops to help keep the bugs off of us! 🙂

5) PRAY! Last year, I had 8 seniors graduate off of my ministry team, and this year my team is basically new. They are amazing students, but it is definitely a growing year. Please pray for team unity and for their continued trust in the Lord while we are planning and preparing.

Pray for the families to be blessed. This year, we are taking 2 pastoral couples with us who will be doing marriage and family seminars. There are many issues in the family dynamic in the Jungle, and we are praying that these seminars will be a step in encouraging the families to truly love each other. Obviously, true love can’t be found unless Jesus is Lord of their hearts, so we are praying that He will be known by the families.

Pray for the people from the village that will be coming with us, as they will be on their first mission trip! We are so excited to come alongside them as they learn what it is to serve the Lord and love their fellow tribe members. This village can be a huge example on the river, as they’ve basically outlawed the sexual abuse practices that are so prevalent in their culture, and they are raising a generation of children who will arrive to their wedding day untouched. The pastor is doing a great job discipling his people, and we hope that they will pass on a little of what they’ve learned to bless the villages around them!

Pray for wisdom for the doctors and dentists as they meet a variety of needs. 2 of our doctors were with us last year, and they have been looking forward to returning!

Pray for Leo and I as we are leading this team. In the past we’ve had a great team of leaders take charge of different areas, and this year, it’s all us. Pray for our unity as a couple, common vision, and patience with each other.

If you would like to partner with this trip financially, you can send donations to:
First Love International
PO Box 15836
Loves Park, IL 61132

You can also donate on-line at www.firstloveinternational.org
Please make sure you put Morales- Amazon in the donation line.

We need to have the full amount of money in by March 5th, which only gives us a few weeks. So, we’re praying for miracles! 🙂

If you would like to donate any physical things, you can send them to:
Leo Morales
C/O Randall Hicks
2222 Enterprise Drive
Westchester, IL 60154

If you are sending donations, they need to arrive by March 14th so Leo can bring them back down with him.

Thanks for continuing to love and encourage us! We know we are not alone in the work here!

Continuing the journey,

Lilia (and Leo)