Monday, August 17, 2009

Ensenada Report

How do I summarize an amazing week? So many things happened. I made sure to spend time each day journaling, and filled nearly 25 pages! I guess the best way to attack is in small chunks.

So let's start by where I was: Ensenada is located in the Baja California "state" of Mexico. It's on the Baja peninsula about 2 hours south of San Diego. The landscape between San Diego and Ensenada is filled with dry, dusty, rugged mountains and hills on the one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The road we drove followed the coast and provided some amazing views of Mountain and ocean. The contrasts struck me almost immediately: Steep mountains and flat beaches butting up to one another; the cool blue of the ocean and the hot, dry, brown rocks. Homes were either large colorful stucco haciendas and vacation homes, or they were small shacks made of scraps of wood, bricks or whatever else was available.

Ensenada itself is a large tourist port, and so there were things like Walmart and Costco and Burger King's. We stayed in the southern part of the city though where it was much poorer and more barren.
Our hosts, Rick and Tammy Romano, have it as their goal to provide short term mission opportunities for Americans and to make a long term impact in the lives of the Mexican people. They work with 7 pastors of small churches in the Ensenada area. During their busy season Rick and Tammy have groups come in to do construction projects (building churches and homes) and to work with children at Vacation Bible Schools at the different churches.


We stayed in small dorm style apartments right off the main road that runs through Ensenada. The dorms I was in had 3 or 4 rooms that held 8 people each (4 sets of bunk beds). The men from our team stayed in apartments across the street -- apparently ours were quite luxurious compared to theirs! :)




Our meeting room, lunch room, and "hang out" spot was about a block away in the 2nd story of a building. The space included a rather large open air porch area, a large main room / kitchen / dining room, and three smaller rooms used for offices, housing for the interns and storage.

The weather all week was perfect. Every morning we woke to clouds, but by 11 AM each day the sky was bright blue. During the day temps may have topped out in the 80's, but because it was so dry it was pleasant. Working in the sun was hot, but breezes usually cooled things down. At night the temps went down to the 60's -- again, very pleasant.

I'll add more later about what our team actually DID while we were there.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Impact 09


In less than two days I will be on my way to Mexico as a part of the "Impact Team" from my church.

Our pastors shared a vision earlier this year that our church would make an impact on the world around us by following the Acts 1:8 plan:

...you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to
the ends of the earth.
The idea was that members of our church would participate in a a series of local service projects and an international trip. People prayed about their involvement whether it would be by helping with one or more of the local projects, or by committing to serve at all (or most) of the local projects as well as the international trip. I spent time praying and really believed God was calling me to go.

The local projects started back in the spring: We started in our Jerusalem, in our own home town, by picking up trash on the sides of the road. We then moved into "Judea", the city of Camden with a service project aimed at helping the homeless by providing for their physical needs and by spending time listening to their stories and showing them some love. "Samaria" for us is the city of Philadelphia where we spent two different days working with a church plant. One day we cleaned up the old church building, filling a huge dumpster with flood damaged debris, tearing out carpet, knocking down walls, etc. On the second trip, we helped them throw a huge free carnival for the neighborhood. More than 800 people were treated to lunch, games, a moon bounce, face painting, a dunk tank, and more.

On Saturday, the 25 member team will head to Ensenada, Mexico. While there we will be partnering with "The Ensenada Project" (http://theensenadaproject.blogspot.com/), lead by missionaries Rick and Tammie Romano. They are working with a group of local pastors who are reaching the people in the Ensenada area. Our team will have three major "projects" while we are there. The construction team we will be building a home or a church for one of the pastors; the children's ministry team will be leading a vacation Bible School at the local churches; and the prayer team will be going with a local pastor / missionary into homes of local believers to pray and build relationships with them.

I didn't sign up for one particular part of the project. Instead, I am going to "floater" who will fill in wherever I am needed. I am going with an open heart to serve in whatever capacity God wants to put me in.

One of the aspects of this trip that I like the most is that so many are involved. Yes there are 25 people who are GOING. In addition, there are another 50 people (maybe more) who have participated in one or more of the local projects -- and so they are part of the team. And of course there are many who could not physically participate, but have financially supported us. But most important of all are our prayer supporters, for none of this can happen without prayer support.

And so, if you would like to be a part of this great endeavor: Please hold us up in prayer this week! Pray for our safety and health, for team unity and healthy conflict resolution, for our partnership with the Ensenada missionaries and pastors, for unbelievers to come to know God because of our efforts, and for believers to be encouraged in their commitment. In addition, please pray specifically for me that I would rely on God and not myself, that I would be an encouragement to others on the team, and that I would be used to make an impact on the people in Ensenada.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Friends

It's been a hard week for me. My "best bud" packed up and left yesterday to move across the country

Our friendship started 18 years ago: Her husband taught at the Christian School where I was hired when my husband and I first moved to NJ. At an early teacher's convention, he and I were relaxing and playing cards with other teachers; simple thing -- but that lead to us getting together as couples for card nights. As we were young and childless, these were pretty frequent if I remember!

When my first child was born, Terri was my first visitor in the hospital. When my little one was about 6 months old, we shared a beach house in NC with them and another couple. She was in the early stages of her first pregnancy (and oh so miserable!) Her first and my second child were born only 3 months apart. It was during those "Mommy Years" that Terri and I really grew in our friendship. We spent hours together: We shared Bible studies at church, play dates in my backyard with my 36 inch collapsible pool, trips to the mall, free days at a local lake (neither of us had much money), beach days.

People frequently thought the kids were brother and sisters. One of our funniest stories was the day we all went to the boardwalk together. Terri and I took my 3 year old to the ladies room, leaving my husband with the two little ones in a double stroller. A lady walked up and cooed over the kids and said to my husband, "Oh they are so cute! Are they twins?" My husband replied,"No, they are three months apart." When the lady looked at him quizzically, he said "They have different mothers." She looked a bit shocked and walked away in a bit of a huff, and only then did my husband realize what she had thought of him!

When my third child was born and I had 3 children under the age of 5, Terri was my extra set of hands. She was praying for a 2nd child, but it just wasn't happening.

Over the next few years, our children played, grew and went to school together. We laughed, solved all the world's problems, and most importantly, we prayed together. We made a regular habit of praying -- sometimes with others in a group, but often just the two of us. I often picked all the kids up from school and went over to her house -- while the kids played, we prayed.

When my "baby" was 4, she found out she was pregnant. "Shashi" was born and we shifted back into the baby stage. When Shashi started talking, I was "Mommy Sue" to her. And when "Shashi" was 15 months old, baby brother "Pappy" was born. Now Terri was the one with two small children so close in age.
Not long after her 3rd was born, my son went into first grade and I went back to teaching full time. A new chapter started for me, one that did not allow much time for play dates and Mommy time. The good thing though, was that although I didn't spend as much time with her, our families stayed connected: I started working again with her husband, and spending lots of time with her oldest son -- as his teacher! Sometimes it was hard to find the line between the "friend" relationship and "teacher / parent" relationship, but I feel like we weathered that one well. I could be her eyes in the hall watching out for her son. She became a confidant for my daughters as dealt with Middle School turbulence. I love that my daughters can go to her for advice because I know she shares my values. While our personalities are like night and day (maybe that's why we had such fun together), our values for our families and passion for Jesus have been much the same.

When I learned at the end of May that her husband was resigning and taking a new position in Utah, my heart broke. I know this is a good change for them as they will be living with her parents for a time and then getting a house of their own very close to her parents and sister. It will be so good for the kids to be near their grandparents; so good for Terri to be near her family; so good for Jim to start fresh in a new school.

But they are leaving behind big, big holes here. Their family was a part of my family -- we share church memories, school memories, and our kids share so many childhood memories.
I know we will stay connected (thanks to technology); We are already planning a vacation out west some day. And because they have so many friends and family in this area, I know they will be back to visit. But it won't be the same. I am going to miss them.