Monday, April 27, 2009

three weeks and counting....

Before I left everyone told me that blogging was going to be challenging to keep up with, but until I got about a month in, I didnt realize how busy I would be and how little time I would have to blog. Anyway, today is the three week marker. Three weeks from today I will be walking in American soil! While I am learning how to live in the moment, and give all to God what needs to be done today. I am still really excited about the day when I come home. But, these next few weeks are going to be really exciting here as well. We have three full days of classes and work this week, and then on Thursday afternoon all of the students, and my siblings, and a couple of our other friends are going to the beach for a long weekend. We are all really excited to see the coast and get a glimpse of the beauty there. We come back late Sunday night, and then on Monday morning Grant and I are going to a small Church in the jungle to do some leadership training and help them plan a camp for this summer. I am so excited about this opportunity and I cannot wait to see what comes of it. Also I get to do some camp stuff, and for me life doesnt get too much better than that! So, we will be there for five days before we head back home. Then, the following day, Saturday, we have a huge going away dinner with all of the students and their families. Then we take our finals on Monday morning and have the rest of the last week to write our final papers and get whatever shopping or sightseeing that we didnt get done, finished! I cannot believe that it is all coming to an end, I am going to be really sad to say bye to all of my friends and family here, but I cannot wait to see my friends and family from home! It is going to be one amazing day!

These past few days have been really challenging, a little stressful, and very full. We have been planning a workshop for the leaders of the Sunday School, all in Spanish, and we have been writing curriculum for the Sunday School. On Saturday we put on the workshop after weeks of planning and practicing, thanks to God's goodness and provision, we were able to pull of a really incredible workshop and mock Sunday School. I cannot believe that it is over, but I am thankful that it all came together. I had to teach the lesson for the Sunday School and I was so nervous that I would forget my Spanish or that I would not make any sense, but God gave me the energy and the words to speak. God is Good.

I am about to be late for a meeting, but I just wanted to write a quick hello and a little life update, even if it is short. This week please pray for productivity and patience. Thank You!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Discovering the Beauty of Creation

Genesis 1. God created and saw that it was good!

The last nine days here in Ecuador have been somewhat of a surreal experience. We left Cuenca on Saturday morning at 5 am for our 8 hour bus ride into the jungle. As we drove through the mountains and felt the air gradually get warmer and warmer, I sat in awe at the majesty of the creation we were driving through. Although Ecuador is a small country in comparison, it is diverse and gorgeous. As we were in the Jungle for the first few days, I saw so many incredible sights and expereinced so many things that I couldnt even have imagined before. On the first day we had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool. It was really hot out and on top of that, the humidity in the jungle blows the humidity in Indiana out of the water, if you can imagine that! When it started to get dark we had a great time of relaxing, talking, playing cards, and laying in the hammock on our back porch. It was so great to have a little time to relax and get to know the other students more. The next morning we woke up early to go on a hike through the amazon rain forest. I still cant believe it as I write it here, we literally were in the amazon rain forest discovering more of God's beauty in person. As we were hiking we saw more varieties of vegetation than I have ever seen in my life, I expereinced more sweat dripping off of my body then I have ever felt in my life, and when we got back and jumped in the pool, I experienced on of the most refreshing moments of my life. It was incredible! At one point on the hike they had a rope swing that we could swing over a bunch of trees and see really far. It was a little scary to know that I was holding on for my life, but it was beautiful. That afternoon we got to go to a Butterfly nursery where they had millions of butterflys everywhere with colors that I didnt even know existed in nature. Then, later when we got back to the hotel, a few of us decided to go exploring on some of the other small islands that surrounded our hotel. We swam across a small part of the river and we were exploring when we found a patch of coconut trees, monkeys swinging from the trees, and a freshly dead horse. It was really funny because as we were standing there trying to decide whether it was a horse of a cow, it started to deflate (we are guessing built up gas started to release?) and it smelled like death. Literally, we couldnt handle the smell so we started to run away and swim back and in the process we lost our coconuts. It was a really funny situation, but interesting none the less.

The next day was my favorite day of the whole trip. We started off at an animal reserve where we got to see a ton of indigenous animals in their natural habitat including, monkeys, leopards, toucans, parrots, anacondas, turtles and some other animals that I dont know the names of. Some of the animals were beautiful and nothing like I had imagined them. After a few hours of hiking and discovering animals, we went really far up the river so that we could take the current back. We then got out of our boat and sat in tubes like a lazy river and rode the river for hours. It was so fun, all of us together were enjoying the rain forest from a slow ride down the river in a tube. Also, half way through the ride we found another rope swing that went into the river, so we all stopped and got out and were swinging into the river. It was so great, then we asked the guide if we could climb the big tree and jump in from there and he didnt seem to care, so some of us climbed this huge tree and jumped in from there. It was really scary, but so exhilarating. Then we finished off the day going to see some indigenous people where we got our faces painted, we got to shoot blow guns (I hit the target on the first try, who knew?), and we also got to see them make some of their handicrafts. Then we got back, took showers and had a Euchre tournament. It was a beautiful day!

The final day we had to get up early and catch a bus to Quito where we met up with Maria DeLourdes and prepared to go to the Galapagos. We had the afternoon in Quito where we got some Pizza Hut, this seems to be the norm when we are all together, and spent time doing a Bible Study and Worship. It was a great relaxing day before we had to do some more traveling. The next morning we woke up at 4 am to grab some breakfast and head to the airport. I was so stinking excited to get to the galapagos, that the four hour plane ride felt like forever. But, as we were sitting on the plane and looked out and saw islands, we all freaked out! We were in the stinking Galapagos, which we so lovingly call the Galaps. When we finally got all of our stuff and made it to our hotel, we changed quickly and then went to the Charles Darwin institute. There we got to see Lonely George (I'll be honest, not as exciting as everyone says) and other large tortoises. They were enormous and really interesting, the way that they moved everyrthing was so cool. After we did some of that tourist stuff we finally got our first taste of the Ocean. Although saltier than I remember, it felt so great! We had some time to chill in the water, and the headed back to the hotel to change and find a place for dinner. We ended up going to this place that kind of reminded me of a fair, they just had alot of booths where you could get fresh pretty much anything that you wanted. I ended up getting a mango smoothie and chicken on a stick. A great way to end our first day in the Galaps.

The next day we spent on a boat touring some of the islands, snorkling, and swimming with the sea lions. While we were touring we saw some really interesting animals, the blue footed boobie, penguins, sea lions (which in spanish is actually aquatic wolves), and other interesting looking birds. As we were snorkling we got to see some really beautiful fish, coral, and (prepare yourself for this) Sharks! Literally, swimming beneath us as we were snorkling we saw a HUGE shark. It was probably 8 or 9 feet in length. I was so scared, but it was just so unbelievable. Then as we were swimming with the sea lions they would come over and get really close. Then if you would do a flip or something in the water, they would play with you and imitate you as well. It was so incredible! I still cant get over it. In fact the rest of the time in Galapagos was spent on boats, snorkling and swimming in the clear water. For those of you that know me, life doesnt get much better than that. As we were heading back on the last day out there, we started to see dolphins. There were hundreds surrounding us jumping and flipping and showing us how great they are! It was surreal standing there on the boat and looking out as the sun was setting seeing these dolphins surround us. I was in awe.

The ride back was a bit rough, but we got some McDonalds while we were in Gualaquil, so that made it a little better! This week we have alot of work to catch up on to get everything done, but the break was incredible. I would love to write more about it, but for now I am out of time. Thanks for all of your prayers and support. You are blessings.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A little too long.

Wow. It has been way too long since I have sat down and blogged. I know that because everytime I talk to my mom she reminds me! ha! Alot has happened in the last week and a half or two weeks. My professor was here from Taylor and what a blessing that was. It was such a fun time of taking about our experiences here and getting a chance to take her to some of our favorite spots here in Cuenca. On the first full day that she was here, she treated us to some Pizza Hut pizza. I dont know what it is about the Pizza Hut here, but it is so good. I dont love Pizza Hut in the States but here it is such a treat! We also did some shopping, alot of talking, and there was definately a time for laughing! I am thankful for that time that we had together because I was able to talk through some of the emotions and questions that I was working through after the death in my family. I am standing in awe at the perfect timing and plans that God has that are beyond my trivial mind. God is Good

I celebrated by 21st birthday this week, that was quite an experience here in Ecuador with my host family and friends. My host brother David turnend 18 the day before I turned 21, so on Saturday we threw one huge party with all of my friends and his. It was a huge shin dig, and so much fun. David and I wore funny hats, we ate more food than you can even imagine, and had one delicious home made cake! I am going to try and get pictures up soon, but just to give you a little idea, my family bought over 100 balloons, 20 packages of streamers, confetti up to wazoo, and lei's for ever guest. They didnt hold back, that is for sure! It was such a fun experience to have had while being here in Ecuador. We finished off the weekend by cleaning the house, listeninng to one of the most powerful thunderstorms I have heard in a long time, and watching the Ecuadorian soccer team play on every tv station!

This week Grant and I have been working on planning a Mock Sunday School for the leaders of the Sunday School here so that they can see an example of what a well planned Sunday School looks like. It is really exciting to have ideas and then be able to put them into action for these leaders. The guy in charge of the Sunday School, Marcelo, is really excited about having some leader traininng. He sees alot of potential for his leaders, but they have never had any training and they are in need of some new ideas. We are praying that through this we will be able to give them all a clearer vision for Sunday School and also give them more motivation to make the Sunday School as good as it can be.

Yesterday was a fun day for everyone here in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian soccer team was playing Paraguay in the afternoon, and it was a huge game! Apparently this was one of the last games for Ecuador to be able to make it to the finals. Lets be honest, Im not really sure what it was all about, but there was alot of hoopla around here. So in the morning Grant and I went to the central to buy our latin skin, as my brother loves to call it. We bought jerseys, fake of course, and after lunch we all went to Grant's house along with about ten other people to watch the game. It was so exciting, and for most of the game Ecuador was winning so everyone was stoked! Then at the last minute, literally the last minute of play, Paraguay got in a goal to tie the score and leaving everyone less excited. I guess soccer games and jerseys and screaming at the tiny television is something everyone who comes to Ecuador needs to experience! I know I wont regret it!

On Saturday morning at 5a.m. (I dont know what they are thinking) we are taking a 9 hour bus ride into the jungle for the first part of our Spring Break. Then on Tuesday we are taking the bus to Quito where we will grab a flight to the Galapagos! WAHOO! We are all so excited and ready for a break. As we are traveling and enjoying our break, please pray for...
1. Safety, please pray that we will all be safe and conscious of all of our decisions in the different locations
2. Our eyes to be opened, I am so excited to see parts of God's creation that I have never experienced before. Pray that we will not take it for granted and that we will recognize how Great God is in the midst of our awe.
3. Good spirits, please pray that as we are all traveling as one large group for nine days that we will all get along well and that we will have good attitudes the whole time.
and 4. please pray that this break will truly be a break for us. Pray that we will not worry or focus on the work that needs to get done here, but that we will enjoy our break and come back mentally rested.