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I had an amazing weekend of relationship, renewal, and rest. I learned an incredible amount about missions, and am still working through the processing of it all. It’s the best kind of processing.

Spent some time on this website today. Read a blurb or two on Italy, and cannot wait to live there in the fall. Today, pray for Austria. 15% of their nation is unreached and do not know Christ’s name. Help from that comfy couch you’re sitting on right now!

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Nicaragua Update

For those of you that don’t know, Harvest Vineyard Church (here in Ames) makes a week long trip to Nicaragua every March. This is the 9th year, and God opened up the opportunity for me to go along. 12 of us went to Arms of Love in Jinotepe, and it was a great week. Once I returned home though, I discovered I’m pretty bad at summing up trips/experiences. Whenever someone asks me “How was Nicaragua??” I just say “It was awesome” which clearly describes nothing and is the same descriptive word I used for my coffee this morning. So it took me a whole week of getting out most of the highlights, then cutting down my update to a reasonable length, and finally sending it out to the wonderful families who supported this trip. This Nicaragua update is the longer description of what we did, for anyone who is interested. But below are ten simple, sweet memories (in no particular order) that I bet I’ll remember for a long time. Like even when I get a mom-haircut.

1) We threw a fiesta for the kids, with pizza and loud music and a pinata. Apparently their radio isn’t edited, and apparently Enrique doesn’t really say “lovin” in “Tonight I’m lovin you.” …Awkward. I also have a funny video of Ronnie, an older boy at Arms of Love, dancing while hitting the pinata. But I can’t figure out how to upload it! Blast! 

2) We got lice. But the rest of the Lice Brigade had awesome attitudes about it, so it was easy for me to do the same. We walked to a pharmacy, and bought the tiniest packet of shampoo I’ve ever seen. It had a cartoon dino with a little bug riding it. Weird? I don’t think it did the trick though, so our first stop when we were back in Ames was the Wal-Mart shampoo section at 4 am. I couldn’t stop laughing in the check-out. The worker was unamused, asking if I would be okay. I think she thought I was drunk…but let me assure you if I WERE drunk at 4 am, spending $50 dollars on lice shampoo is not what I would do.

 

3) Our bus driver, Frank, knew absolutely no English. Trying to have conversations with him were my favorite. He was very patient with my terrible Spanish, and one night we played hangman and made paper swans.

4) Playing “Bear, Fish, Mosquito” with the little kids. Bear > fish. Fish > mosquito. Mosquito > bear. Malaria! It’s kind of like a mega game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. But “oso! oso!” sounds cuter than “Scissor”.

5) Our team had devotions together every morning, and Thursday morning was one of my favorites. A team member, Jon, shared about his anger with God when his wife died. He talked about how God led him back to Himself and revealed His trait of faithfulness. We talked about other characteristics Christ has revealed to us personally. Afterwards we did some tradition of “passing the peace” that Jon had learned from preaching to men in a jail. You hug each other and say “Paz de Dios contigo” or something like that. It was a good moment with our team. And I bet it’s how we all got lice.

6) Walking through Jinotepe to the tiniest stores to buy Coca-Cola. And I don’t even like Coca-Cola. That’s how fun it was.

7) Ned singing “Master Builder” while we painted. Our translator, Nestor, especially found it entertaining, and we sang that song all week. “Jesus was a carpenter a long time agooooooo……….”

 

8) The first night, Ronnie gave us a tour of the homes at Arms of Love. We went to the younger kids home, and they one-by-one told us their names. Then they practically ran us over to go into their bedrooms and try to clean it up a little. The boys stuffed clothes under the beds and in the closets faster than you can say “holy cow, how much axe did you just spray.”

 

9) Richard shamelessly announcing to 20+ people that the coconuts we had the night before had “given him the trots.” The coconut guy didn’t deliver one to him again.

 

10) Coloring with Marlo on the last night. He is one of the sweetest little boys I have ever met, and as he cuddled in my lap while watching a movie on that night, I became incredibly close to tears.

 

 

18 “But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

-Isaiah 43:18-19

Just Like Eating a Taco.

                      

Awh shoot, guys. My mind is scattered. I finally made it to the library, but it wasn’t easy. After remembering more things I had forgotten, I traveled back and forth between the elevator and my room three times (or thrice, for everyone who thinks that word is funny like me). I also just put my headphones in for eleven minutes before realizing I hadn’t put any music on. I even watched “16 & Pregnant” today, but three minutes later my realization stopped my encouragement of the worst show ever created 

“Abby, why is your mind so scattered?” you’ll say while sipping some coffee and sheepishly looking back at the TV. Dr. Drew is psychoanalyzing Amber, I bet.

Well, because I am way too excited to hit the road/air tonight (in one hour) and spend a week in Nicaragua, hanging out with kids here and getting to know the men and women in the community.

I couldn’t quite figure out how I wanted to talk about this day and this coming experience. Half wanting to give some sentimental explanation of the trip explaining what we’ll get to do and including a picture of some young, dark eyes that will await me there, half wanting to try to think of some witty way of talking about spending a spring break in a foreign country. Torn, I found myself thinking of no other way to explain my excitement than to compare it to eating a taco.

It’s a rare occasion that I eat a taco. Maybe once or twice I’ll get one at school. They don’t come around here often though and all this “meat is really just pink slime!!” talk can scare a girl. And I almost never get a taco if I’m out to eat. I always get talked out of it by the sexy salad or the chicken reminding me of our good times in the past. But when I do get one, whether in my mama’s kitchen or in some funny Mexican restaurant a weird friend dragged me to, it’s always a freakin party.

 Tacos are complex. Maybe that’s why Tuesdays around the world are dedicated to these kiddos. First, you get the spice. Salsa and jalapeños add the heat that’s more than you expect. It makes me sweat a bit, and always sticks with me for longer than I anticipated. But after I feel my face get a little hot and let out a “hooooly cow” I realize I actually love a little flavor. Then, you get the refreshment from crisp lettuce and chilly tomatoes. They act like a good friend to your taste buds, telling them everything’s going to be okay, and they help keep your palette balanced after the heat shakes you awake. Then of course, there’s the meat. Or slime. Whatever. The meat is the substance, after all. I mean taco meat is what transforms weird condiments and small vegetable portions into a staple for restaurants everywhere. It’s spicy, but never too much. It’s unlike any other taste and it mixes perfectly with everything else you’ve piled into a tortilla.

That’s kinda how I’ve been thinking about this opportunity I have, and doing work for Jesus in general. Mission trips or service experiences can get heated for me, as I’m asked to finish work projects that are tiring or have conversations that may be weird or awkward. I mean will I be able to relate to these people? After all, I’m a weirdo and compare mission work to tacos and make collages of Bridget Jones in jail. But when it’s all said and done, the work is finished, the conversations are started, and I take a breath or two, realizing that’s what I needed. The sigh after the jalapeño. And that’s what I love.  There is such sweetness and refreshment for the spirit, as well, rooting from meeting new people and loving on them, as you let them love you back and share with you about their life. Their openness being like a cold tomato, if we’re sticking with this long-winded analogy. And then there’s the meat of it. The substance of relationship, the hard work of communicating with other people, the realization that I’m really selfish most of the time. It’s a little spicy, but never more than I can handle. It’s hearty and real and tastes different than anything else.

I’m not really sure what to expect for this trip to Nicaragua, but I am hoping that there’ll be some colored moments of the unknown, refreshment from something new, and substance of knowing this is time well spent. Much like eating a taco.

cool taco pix via here