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Update #3 – Tanzania

By | Tanzania, Uncategorized

We were blessed to receive individual updates from all of the team members! Read them below and find all photos at the bottom of this post.


Hujambo!

This week has been jam packed with fun, trials, joy, and grace! We made it safely to Kigoma and have been enjoying our time here in the village. So far, we have eaten amazing food, played with cute kids in the streets, and seen God move and work in the hearts of our team and the nationals we encounter.

My favorite part so far was when we were invited to the Hope of the Nations youth group Thursday night. Worship was fun and upbeat and full of dancing and singing. It’s amazing to see the emotion in their dancing and the way they worship Jesus. A close second would be the time after our busy days are done when the team gets to eat dinner together and relax. We play card games and laugh until the wee hours of the night.

I am excited to see what God does next week at camp with a bunch of kiddos!

Until next time!
Qwa herini!
Sabrina


This trip had been such an awesome and eye opening experience so far! The first few days we have been trying to immerse ourselves in Tanzanian culture. The first day we worked basically all day doing things like shoveling sand and rock and making cement so that we could help build a wall for the Hope of the Nations facility. We have been working really hard to serve the people here along with adapting to the culture, trying to learn Swahili, and connecting with the people.

The Tanzanian people are so hard working and never have any complaints about their life. Everybody I have met has been so friendly and I can see the love of God working through the people here.

The Hope of the Nations facility where we are staying is in the middle of the village, so as soon as we outside children will swarm around us. Last night I was wrestling and having fun with the children for over an hour – it was such an awesome experience. By the time we go to bed at night we are all extremely exhausted, but I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences that we have gone through!

Justin


This trip has been an amazing trip so far. We have been learning so much about the culture. It is so amazing to see everyone here works together and truly knows everyone. It has been such a great experience to see what it is like to live the life of a Tanzanian.

One thing that I have learned so far from this trip is to not take anything for granted. Even though these kids here may not have everything we have in America, they are the happiest kids you will ever see. I have yet to see a kid who is sad. It’s a blessing to be on this trip and to be a part of this team to help others.

George


Hujambo!

I have absolutely loved my time here in Tanzania! God has been showing me how much I should appreciate everything I have at home.

Everyone that I have met is so friendly and kind. One person that I have grown to admire here is Moma Miracle. As we are doing our work projects, she is always constantly cooking for us. When I was helping paint the house with the team, she called me over and explained to me that she wanted me to enjoy my time being able to work independently. She said that many women in Tanzania do not have this option because they have to take care of the children, cook, and clean pretty much all day. It makes me realize that the things I think are simple can mean so much to someone else.

Whenever we have the chance to go out into the village, the kids are my favorite part. They love to hug us and will literally fight to sit on your lap. Since they know where we are staying they will all come in the morning to wait for us to come out and play. It is so sweet!

This week has been a wonderful experience and I am so happy that I got the chance to come here and serve the people of Tanzania. I can’t wait for the next week to help with the Kids’ Camp!

Daija


Oh my cobbler hujambo,

Coming all the way from Kigoma, Tanzania , it’s Bri! I have been painting, cleaning, killing chickens, concreting, and so much more. Man, I love it here so much!

My highlights so far have been: Hugging and playing with so many chicken nuggets (children). Eating a wonderful fish meal that was fantastic. Going to youth group and seeing so many people dance like my Hispanic people (my family).

I send love. I am doing great. I was experiencing some spiritual warfare but God has seen me through. Love you mom, Abel, and Haley. Thank you to anyone and everyone who is reading this. I appreciate you. I am alive and well.

Bria


I am having the best of times out here in Africa. I learned how to catch and cook my very own chicken!!!! Who would have ever thought lol.

Diamond


Hi, everyone!

Thank you for your prayers as we continue to serve here! It has been a great trip so far, and we wish each of you could be here to see the amazing work the ministry is doing! Next week we will be out visiting villages where they have no access to the Gospel, which also means they have no access to the Internet. 🙂 Because of this we won’t be able to send another update for several days, but rest assured that we will be safe and cared for! Harold, one of the founders of the ministry here, will be with us the entire time, along with several of our new Tanzanian friends. Harold will also have access to an emergency phone, so just know that no news is good news for the next couple of days. 🙂 For now, enjoy these photos from our first week here and we look forward to updating you again sometime near the end of next week!

Love you all!

Spencer & Meghan


Update #6 – Southeast Asia

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Hello everyone!

Kylie here bringing you the last update for team Southeast Asia! First of all, on behalf of the team, I would like to say “thank you! thank you! thank you!” for all of your support and prayers throughout our journey! We have loved to see how many of you are following along with us on the blog! We are so grateful for each of you, as you have played a huge part in making our work in this country possible!

The last couple days we have been finishing our painting project in the EFC (emergency family care) center, which actually used to be a brothel. It has since been taken over by AIM and transformed into a shelter for young girls to prevent them from being trafficked. It was so powerful to work in a place that was once used for such evil, helping to renew it into a space that will continue to help so many precious little girls. Once we finished painting all the walls pink, we started painting some with artwork and inspiring words. Walking into the room, one is able to see where the walls built to separate brothel rooms once were. After those walls were broken down, there were rectangular prints left on the current walls. Monique, Emma, Sierra, Kayla and AJ decided to paint a cross over one of those prints. It was so beautiful to watch them do so, as it was symbolic of something broken being renewed. Revelation 21:5 came to mind, which we decided to put on the wall as well: “ He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.””

I worked on another painting project, in which I wrote “Daughters of the most high King.” I was so honored to have the opportunity to remind those lovely little ladies that no matter what they have been through in life, they are loved and valued and cherished by the One who shaped them with his own mighty hands. They are princesses because they are daughters of the King.

The EFC staff members hosted a little gathering for us on the last day of the project. They were so generous and gave us a beautiful handmade thank you card along with traditional Khmer scarves (called Kramas) and a rose for each girl on our team! We took pictures and talked about all of the artwork we had added to the walls. They were so pleased with the room and said that it felt like a new place to them. It was so moving to see the joy on their faces. We are all so excited for the little girls who live there to explore the new space!

As a side note, I need to mention how much we have loved visiting the sweetest lady next door to EFC. She has such a kind spirit, not to mention she makes the BEST coffee ever! It is so delicious! We have enjoyed sipping on that while we work!

We have loved getting to pour our hearts into this special project. We cannot wait to see this place continue to be used for God’s glory. Throughout our time here, we have been so amazed by the powerful transformation that has occurred in this little village through AIM. What used to be the red light district, a horror filled place made up of streets lined with brothels, has now become a place of safety and comfort. There is still lots of progress to be made in this country, but God is surely at work! We are so humbled by the opportunity to serve this community.

With this, we are sadly approaching the end of our time here. We have become so close with the staff, disciples, and children here in the community and it will be extremely difficult to leave. We will soon have to say such painful goodbyes, but we are comforted by the fact that we know we will see these brothers and sisters in Christ again, whether that be here through another visit, or someday in Heaven. I’m sure many of us would love to return, as we have fallen in love with the work that God is doing within so many lives. For me personally, I have fallen in love all over again, just as I did last year. I know now more than ever that a huge part of my heart is here and I already cannot wait to come back.

The team is so excited to return home to all of you – we have missed you so dearly! We are so thankful to God for blessing us with this opportunity to serve him and show his love to his children in this part of the world. Thank you again for all of your support and prayers! We will see you all soon!

~Kylie and the team

Update #2 – Eastern Europe A

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Hello from Europe!!

After an entire day of travel on Tuesday we all made it safely including the 20 bags luggage, craft materials and donated clothing!  On Wednesday we spent the day resting, training, sightseeing and preparing for our first day with the kids. We saw many absolutely incredible things like incredibly old cathedrals and the merchant arches in the old section of town. Thursday we had a wonderful time meeting the children and teens for the first time, and we started the day off with a skit that was a big hit setting the tone and piquing the interest of the students about the reason for us being here.

The teens were surprisingly welcoming and not at all what we expected. They immediately wanted to know everything about us and America. They asked us many questions about American schools and our movies and music. They listen to a lot of American music but mostly rap.  We ended up playing games and sports with them for three hours straight.  We had lots of fun but Kimo, Emily, Dot and I (Farnum) suffered from some minor bumps and bruises but it was all worth it in the end. They also made Kimo and Dot sing, so they sang “How He Loves” and afterwards they asked us what the song was about which was very cool because they started to ask us the differences between Orthodox and Protestantism.

The younger kids instantly wanted to form connections with the 5 of us who were working with them, which was a blessing. Even though most of us couldn’t understand them without a translator, they were still very engaging and kept talking to us as if we could comprehend what they were communicating perfectly. Surprisingly, the girls aren’t afraid of any cooties Paul and Ben might have, and the boys are quite well-behaved.  They all said they were very excited to see the upcoming skits we have prepared, which was encouraging since we didn’t finalize it until about 30 minutes before the kids arrived!

We’re excited for tomorrow. Keep praying for us – safety, health and building relationships with the kids! Enjoy the photos and we’ll update you all again soon!

-Farnum, Dot & Ben on behalf of the team

Update #1 – Eastern Europe A

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Hello friends and family!

We are excited to tell you all that after three long flights (yes, THREE!), we have made it to Eastern Europe! Our flights went smoothly and everyone made it here safely – including all of our luggage. We are fighting off some serious jet-lag, but other than that everything has gone perfectly! We are all very ready and excited to dive into the ministry here and the work that God has been preparing for us.

For now, please pray for plenty of energy, pockets of time for rest to fight off the jet-lag, and for unity as we begin our ministry work together. We cannot wait to see how God is going to move during our time here!

We will send another update shortly, so keep an eye open for that. We love you all and are so thankful for all of your support!

-Myrna & the team

Update #5 – Southeast Asia

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Greetings from Phnom Penh! This is Kristen bringing you your latest update.

This weekend was quite the adventure, as we left our hotel in the city and ventured out into the great jungles of the Siem Reap province to tour three of the Angkor temples. Our tour included a very knowledgeable guide who gave us the full history of each temple. In short, we visited Angkor Wat (the largest religious monument in the world), Ta Prohm (also known as Tomb Raider Temple because it was used as a filming location for the movie Tomb Raider), and Bayon (famous for the many, many faces of King Jayavarman VII carved into its towers).

The weather for our adventures at the temples was a mix of sun and thunderstorm- as always, weather changes very quickly here. At Angkor Wat, we started the tour during a drizzle, and were very careful climbing the steep stairs to the top of the temple. Later, the weather turned sunny and hot, and we sweated our way back to the main entrance. As soon as we got outside, we saw a little monkey chowing down on some cheese puffs. Emma got a little too close and our small friend grabbed at her! Luckily, we all escaped the mini-menace unscathed. When we got to Ta Prohm, the storm clouds gathered again, and as we walked around looking at the huge spung trees growing from the stones of the temple’s roof, the rain started coming down again. The rain stayed all the way through our tour of Bayon, where Farmer and AJ posed for pictures in which they pretended to kiss one of the stone faces. All in all, it was a very interesting and awe-inspiring trip.

That night, we visited the night market in Siem Reap, where we bought souvenirs for ourselves and gifts for all you loved ones back home. On Sunday, we slept in (to the point where everyone except Farmer missed breakfast) and started the journey back to Phnom Penh around noon. During the six-hour drive, we played brain games and told riddles to each other to keep ourselves occupied.

For dinner on Sunday, we met up with some American fieldworkers who work for AIM. Our tuk-tuk drivers got lost (once again) and drove us around for a half-hour looking for the right restaurant. Actually, they never found the restaurant. We had them let us off at a fitness center where Kylie could get some Wi-Fi and call the fieldworkers for directions and then we walked the rest of the way. Can we stop and acknowledge our fantastic student leader, Kylie, for a moment? She’s been doing a great job getting us where we need to go!

This morning, we got back to work. Our job for this week? Painting! We got very messy and very pink today. AJ had fun painting Nate’s nails pink and Emma recorded an excellent little Coke commercial during our break, which you can watch by clicking here. Thankfully, we also got a lot done. After we cleaned everything up, we spent a couple hours at the volleyball court and soccer field. It was a great way to end the day.

Blessings from all of us. We’re having an amazing time exploring Southeast Asia and serving the people here. Please continue to pray for us as we finish the week strong and get all our painting done. We’ll see you soon and enjoy the barrage of photos below!

-Kristen & the team

Update #4 – Southeast Asia

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Good afternoon from Siem Reap!

It’s Emma and Kayla here. We arrived at a new hotel last night and we are getting ready to tour the city today. The past two days have been insane: We’ve finished up our work shops and ended kids club at AIM. Our relationships grew and saying goodbye yesterday was very hard. There were lots of tears, but more smiles of thankfulness and appreciation for the friendships we built. The disciples told us “It isn’t a goodbye, but see you later.” We are all family now and we are so blessed to create so many memories.

We really enjoyed laughing, playing games, and eating lunch with the disciples everyday. On Tuesday and Thursday, we were able to play football (soccer) and volleyball with them which was nice because it allowed us to hang out with them a little longer those days and really deepen our friendships. They don’t wear shoes here when they play football or volleyball so we all got to experience playing sports without shoes. Farmer got hit in the head with the football as he was blocking a goal which made everyone laugh until they were rolling on the floor. Farmer was in a little pain, but played it off like it was no big deal. He’s okay now. 🙂 They really love how our team can be really goofy with them and the banter we have with not only our team, but the AIM staff and the disciples is so amazing and they enjoy it.

In addition to saying our goodbyes, we’ve had many crazy adventures outside of AIM. Yesterday, we hopped on a tuk-tuk (a local form of transportation here, kind of like an open-air taxi…but powered by a motorcycle) and headed to a restaurant. The tuk-tuk ride seemed longer than what we had intended for so we pulled over to the side. We come to find that we were lost in the city. Thankfully, with the help of Kylie and the other tuk-tuk driver, we arrived at the restaurant—which was only a few blocks down for our hotel. But hey! We got a free tour of the city.

We have been lucky to try many different foods but also a couple samples of home. We have enjoyed two pizza restaurants as well as some wings…thanks to Emma’s demand. But they are pretty good here. And we were able to try a local delicacy: crickets! Click here to see a video of us oh-so-casually reacting to eating crickets in Southeast Asia.

We wish our time with the disciples and kids had not ended, but we look forward to continuing to serve this next week. God has touched each and every one  of our hearts and while we love you guys back home…I don’t think anyone wants to leave. We get ready to tour the beautiful city but I don’t think anything could be better then the beautiful people here!

Keep praying for us and talk to you soon! Sending our love,

Emma and Kayla

Update #5 – Czech Republic

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Hello everyone! Jon here! Welcome back to the next thrilling installment of our heroes’ epic journey through Prague!

 I’d like to take a moment to thank my friends, my family, the family of my friends, and the friends of my family for taking the time to read this blog post. And viewers like you. Thank you.

Now, for those of you who enjoyed the length and detail of our last update, brought to you by Paul, you’re in luck! If not, well, I apologize, but I’m really not all that sorry because I’m about to share an equally long update anyway. So please silence your cell phones, buckle your seatbelts, and keep all hands and arms inside the vehicle –  you’re in for a bumpy ride!

Alright, we return to find our heroes where we last left them – Monday afternoon! That evening, we went to an open-air market for well-priced souvenirs, but none of us ended up buying much more than the odd scarf or trinket.

And now on to Tuesday morning! On Tuesday, Andrei and I joined Paul and Jeff at a technical high school in Kralupy (I had to *Czech* the spelling on this before we posted) alongside George, another member of Jeff’s church, and a young man from Detroit named Isaac. (Isaac, I discovered, attends a church named Remedy in the Czech town of Poděbrady. Those of you from my home church may recognize this as the church of another pastor I’ve worked with in the past, which was a very pleasant surprise!) I’m a Computer Science major myself over at Jessup, so needless to say I was excited to talk about geeky stuff like computers and video games with these students! (If you’re into that kind of thing, by the way, they specialize in networking – setting up and maintaining computer networks, etc.) It was a long day filled with fun discussion, and we returned to find the rest of the team (Becky, Krista, Lana, and Miraya) working in the library. While we were away, Lana and Miraya had been helping Meredith with a program for a local public school in the morning, while Becky and Krista covered books and began the monumental task of cleaning all the bookshelves in the library. That evening we made breakfast for dinner back in the apartment, with Krista, Paul, and Miraya taking the forefront on cooking French toast, scrambled eggs, and bacon (that may or may not have actually been ham). Afterwards we enjoyed a pleasant evening of watching the first half of “Father of the Bride” before going to bed to get ready for the coming day.

Wednesday morning, Miraya and Krista joined Paul and Jeff in Kralupy while Andrei and I remained with Becky and Lana in the library. Before the day began, though, Andrei, Becky, and I joined Laurie to pray with members of her church for Prague and the Czech Republic in front of the National Museum at O’ Dark Thirty (actually 6:15). It was amazing to see all that God has been doing already before we ever set foot in Prague, and humbling to realize that I get to play a part, however small, in God’s plan. The day mostly consisted of our respective routine library tasks – Becky spent the entire day scanning documents into the library file system, Lana performed inventory of the craft supplies in the children’s closet, and Andrei worked hard to finish painting the upstairs flats’ doorways. (Huge shoutouts to Becky and Andrei, by the way, for sticking with those all day, as tiring and tedious as they may have been in the moment – they were a huge blessing to Jim and Laurie, and Andrei had been painting since last week!)

Wednesday evening, Jim, Laurie, and Meredith took the team out to dinner at Olše, a restaurant where most of us tried the classic Czech dish of Svíčková, which is steak in a special sauce with bread dumplings, topped with cream and cranberries. It was delicious, and afterwards we all went out for gelato! The team that had won Monday’s scavenger hunt (Paul, Becky, and Krista) received their prize – a second scoop of gelato! It was fantastic. I got a scoop of lemon, which tasted strangely like Chick-Fil-A’s lemonade. We also saw a few buildings that were relics of the Communist era along the way – powerful reminders of the pain that Czechoslovakia suffered before its liberation during the Velvet Revolution during the late 80s. That was also when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia; they split peacefully after student protests in 1989 forced the Communist government to relinquish power, and—Wait, what? You want to hear more about us? Well, alright…we returned to the flat to play a few games of Village Idiot, a card game Krista introduced us to that we’ve been playing pretty much whenever we have free time. We taught Jim and Laurie how to play, and we can probably teach you how to play too if you ask! Anyway, after a dramatic finale in which Jim soundly bested me, we all hit the hay.

Thursday rolled around, and Becky and Lana took their turn with Paul and Jeff while Miraya and Krista stayed behind at the library with us. Krista and Becky continued cleaning shelves and covering books, and Miraya and I continued working together on a project – but first, some backstory:

Every summer, Jim and Laurie host a huge book sale to generate extra funds for the library – they devote two entire rooms to setting out boxes for patrons to browse, which requires tons of effort for setup and teardown. So this year, they want to post the catalog digitally so they can simply retrieve the requested book when someone wants it rather than putting out all those boxes at once. This is where Miraya and I come in – we were tasked with photographing and inventorying all the books in all the boxes for the booksale. We had a pretty good system down, too: we get a set of boxes, Miraya opens one up, takes a book out, puts it on a stand, takes a photo, and moves on to the next one. Then she gives me the SD card with the photos on it and I transfer them to my laptop so I can label them with their titles and authors, and organize them into folders by box. While I’m doing this, Miraya keeps snapping away until I’m done with the previous batch, and then the cycle repeats. It took many long hours over both weeks, but Miraya finally finished photographing the last of the boxes Thursday afternoon! She cranked out a total of 69 boxes over the two weeks, each containing 20-30 books on average, almost 30 of which she finished Thursday alone! She was super excited to finally be done with it – and I was only 16 boxes behind with the labeling and sorting (which is less than it sounds like).

Thursday evening, Becky and Andrei had a romantic date night around Prague (which I’ll let them keep to themselves), while us students (Krista, Lana, Miraya, Paul, and myself) finished souvenir shopping at the open-air market we visited Monday night, then joined Meredith to hit the local mall, Flora, for food and more shopping! Paul, South Asian by blood, was excited to finally have Indian food, and the girls shopped for clothes after dinner. Our shopping wasn’t over yet, though – we visited the mall’s Albert (a Czech grocery store chain like Safeway) to get more food and souvenirs in the form of sweets! We rounded out the night with more Village Idiot with Becky and Andrei, and then went to sleep once more (as humans are wont to do).

Alright, on to Friday! Yesterday was our last day of library work, so (after taking a much-needed group photo) we got our rears in gear and busted a major move to finish cleaning everything. Members of the team were hard at work dusting, vacuuming, cleaning windows, and otherwise pouring elbow grease into every corner of the library. I mostly focused on labeling and organizing those 16 boxes’ worth of photos, and finally caught up to Miraya. After cleaning the library, we went to lunch at a delicious Kebab restaurant that we had visited earlier this week. (But I don’t remember when, so this is where I’ll mention it!) Jim took us on a walk to the National Memorial on Vítkov Hill, which famously hosts a huge statue of Jan Žižka mounted on a horse, as well as a tomb dedicated to unknown soldiers who died in WWII and some of the best views you can get of Prague. After the walk, we all went to the mall to get some dinner (and so the ladies could fit in some more shopping). That evening, Meredith took us to her church’s youth group, Youth Praha, for their monthly “The Drop” event, which is a hangout and an open mic night! (The ladies may or may not have taken an entire bag of McDonald’s, plus McFlurries, onto the metro on their way to meet us. Paul and Lana would like to remind the audience that carbs don’t count overseas.) Paul and I competed with two students in a Karaoke competition, and during the open mic the students showcased some serious talent. They were busting out songs, guitar solos, some spoken word – heck, the youth pastor himself rapped from an album he’s releasing! After Youth Praha, we returned to Meredith’s flat to help her prep kebabs for a children’s picnic she’s hosting on Saturday – where I began writing this post!

Even though it’s been a fun week with lots of good food and fantastic sights, it’s been so much more than just that. We may not be able to see the direct results of our work yet, but we know that God can use even something as small as library work to do amazing things. Our goal was to assist Jim and Laurie in the library and bless them, and at the end of the day, that’s what we’ve been doing. The rest is up to God!

And this, sadly, is where tonight’s story ends. Join us next time for the thrilling conclusion to this epic saga! It’s the grand finale that you definitely don’t want to miss! Peril! Danger! Excitement! Relative safety! Heartfelt discussions! Divine revelation! Elephants! Who knows what’s in store? Find out in a few days, same bat-time, same bat-channel!

Anyway, thanks for hanging in there for another novel of an update! See you all soon,

-Jon

P.S. – Due to complications (i.e. time crunches) at the time of publishing, we’ll be sending the photos for this update with our next post, but here is one of Paul doing a classic faceswap to tide you over until more photos can be posted.

Update #3 – Southeast Asia

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Suistei (hello in Khmer) , friend’s and family!

Monique & Sierra bringing you the latest news from our team! We are so happy you are reading these blogs and praying for each and every one of us! We are so thankful for all of you and are excited to tell you more about what we’re doing here.

For the past two days we have been working at the AIM center. We start off our days getting breakfast and coffee with one another and then get on the bus where our lovely driver, “Mr. T,” greets us. We then head over to AIM (about a 40 minute bus ride from where we are styaing) and watch the people on the street who can somehow fit 4-6 people on a motorbike. Once we get to AIM we say hi to all of the new friends we’re making and start our workshops. The workshops are classes where we teach the young disciples a type of skill or activity. Some workshops we are offering are music, arts and crafts, sewing, photography, singing and even a Bible study. These workshops give us the opportunity to share with the disciples some skills we have developed over the course of our lives but also gives us the opportunity to build relationships with them.  After the workshops we do team-building exercises with all of the disciples. We get into a big circle and play games. The disciples are quick learners and usually beat us.

After games, we have lunch which is  prepared every day by the amazing women at AIM and is always incredible. This lunch break is a great opportunity for us to sit with the disciples and staff to learn more about their lives and build stronger relationships with them. After lunch we have a break where we prepare for Kid’s Club and usually go get more iced coffee (because as AJ and Nate shared in the last post, it’s amazing!).

After the break we start Kid’s Club! We begin with worship and do a couple of songs in Khmer and some in English.  Afterwords, we perform a skit to teach a Bible lesson, memorize a verse, play some games and then end our day with a craft. On our first day at AIM we had the kids make torches out of cardstock and tissue paper and they turned out so cute! On the second day we had them decorate crowns with glitter and gems. Although the glitter got all over us, all over them, and all over the AIM facility, it was so much fun and the crowns turned out perfect! After it’s all over it’s time to say our goodbyes to the kids until the next day. We have truly loved seeing these kiddos every day and getting to teach them about Jesus. They always have the biggest smiles on their faces and can’t wait to tackle and hug you every chance they get.

On the 22nd, which was our second day, we were given a tour of the different building of AIM, many of which were old brothels. There was one building we were taken to that still had one brothel room up to show what the building had started as compared to what God has turned it in to. I know for some of us team members, seeing that room really put into perspective what we are trying to prevent. It was heartbreaking to see but we serve a greater God and that was clearly shown during the rest of our tour. Later that day, we went out and played soccer and volleyball with the leaders and disciples at AIM. It was so fun getting to play with them and they didn’t even mind if we were horrible, they still cheered for us! They just wanted to have fun with us and get to know us better as well. After we leave AIM we are usually hungry so we find somewhere to eat. The food here is great and we have been able to try new things. After dinner we are ready for some much needed sleep. Although we are exhausted at the end of the day, we are so happy to be here and get to do what God has called us here for.

We have been challenged greatly, but been blessed ten times more. We can’t wait to see what the next week and a half holds for our team!

Love you all and miss you! More updates to come soon!

-Monique, Sierra & the team

Update #4 – Czech Republic

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What’s up guys, it’s Paul!

So if you’ve been checking in with the blog you might have noticed that it’s been a few days since we posted an update, so ya’ll bout to be in for a roller coaster of an update! Starting with this last Friday, I finally got to sleep in for the first time this week, PRAISE! I’ve been hanging out with Jeff at the different Czech schools all week, which has been an amazing experience, but nobody told me I’d have to get up two hours before anyone else the whole week! Haha, I’m just joking…It truly has been a unique opportunity getting to hang out with different students and different team members at the schools and see how each of them interact and connect with each other. But aside from that, I was pretty pumped to get to sleep in the few extra hours, and even more so because that was the day that we had decided to do our prayer walk.

The prayer walk basically consisted of our group, along with Jim and Laurie, walking around to different locations in Prague and praying for them. We got the opportunity to pray for the different organizations helping the homeless populations, the church fighting the red light district, the people and youth of the Czech Republic, and even the new location for the library! It was such a humbling experience getting to walk around and actually see the places and people that we were praying for and imagine all that God is going to be doing there. It was also super cool getting to see the new location for the library and hear how excited Jim and Laurie were/are for the future of the library and how many people they will be able to reach when they move.

Other than the actual praying, the best part of the prayer walk had to be when we were walking back to the metro. We passed these people in the park that had a few puppies and Lana literally lost it! She was so excited and when the people offered to let her pet the puppy, she straight up took it out of the lady’s hand. She was even trying to barter with the woman to keep the puppy. It was almost the funniest thing that Lana did that day but it was nowhere near as great as when we were riding the metro back home and she was trying to follow Jim off the metro, except Jim was only switching cars and not actually getting off. So, what we got to see was Lana walk off the car and then coming running back only to see the doors close. It was hands down the funniest part of the day! Luckily for Lana she only got off one stop early, so we just waited for her since she caught the next metro about five minutes later.

The next few hours were pretty chill since we were just waiting to leave for the train to go to this retreat through the International Church of Prague. While there, we were volunteering to watch the kids/run a children’s program while their parents were in the actual sessions of the retreat. The retreat was in Tabor, which was about an hour away by train, and when we got there, we were able to settle in a little bit before heading out to meet the kids. That night we didn’t really have much planned in terms of programing, so we had all the kids introduce themselves and we played a few games and sang a song before their parents came to get them. Prior to even getting to the Czech Republic we had all divvied-out jobs and responsibilities for the retreat weekend, but when the time for the retreat actually came, we ended up improvising.

When Saturday came, I led a few games like tag and steal the bacon, in hopes that the kids would get all their energy out. Then we went inside where we had the kids color while Andrei taught the kids about David, which many of the kids knew a lot about! Then Becky taught the kids how to make lanyards and we split into groups and hung out with them until the session was over. Not gonna lie, we weren’t sure how the children’s program was going to go, but happily it turned out to be a huge success!

After we finished hanging out with the kids, some of the team decided to chill and relax, and a few of us (being Jon, Lana, Krista, and I) opted to go into the actual town of Tabor and explore a bit. The first thing we saw when we got there was a cat café. Now I just want everyone to know right off the bat that I am NOT a cat person. For anyone that is a cat person, more power to you, but they are just not for me. So anyway, we go in this cat café, and I’m already super suspicious about these cats running around, but I’m going with the flow because Jon and Krista are living for the cats. Lana and I decide to get some coffee while we wait in the café, and then this cat jumps on the table, and that right there tells you that this cat was up to something. So Jon’s playing with cats and Krista and Lana are talking and I notice that the coffee has ice cream in it, so I go to show the two of them, and this cat THAT’S STILL ON THE TABLE, swipes at my coffee spilling a bunch of it! Needless to say I was shook… That was more or less the extent of our trip to Tabor. We did get to see a really beautiful view of the river, so that made up a little for the coffee-attacking cat. When we got back to the retreat center, we learned that Andrei had signed up to participate in a talent show that night! It was really funny because his act was pretty much just sitting on stage with a guitar talking about a song that he never ended up singing. It was awesome!

Sunday morning was very similar to Saturday with the addition of some sad goodbyes. We were only with the kids for a few hours the last two days, but we already felt a connection to them. I was especially torn when one of the older boys, who had been somewhat hard to handle, came up to me and said that he was going to miss us, that he had SOO much fun this weekend and then asked if we were coming back the following year. Talk about a heart wrenching goodbye! So we headed back to Prague and unpacked from the weekend, took some naps, and then went for a walk around a nearby, wait for it….. cemetery. Apparently it was the biggest one in the country and a lot of people enjoy going to it. I mean I don’t get the appeal of walking around a cemetery for fun, but hey when in Czech! After that we got the best meal we’d had in a long time (pizza, of course) and rounded the night off with some board games and card games! Click here to watch an epic showdown between Becky & Paul in one of these card games.

Monday was our day off, so by unanimous vote we decided to sleep in for the majority of the day. Later that morning, we got the best strudel in Europe (apparently it is the best strudel in Europe according to some travel food bloggers) and it was delicious! After finishing the strudel, Meredith had created a scavenger hunt around Prague for us to do. She split us into two teams where we had to use a clue to figure out the location and then map out the fastest route there. We got to see a lot of really cool sights including the Prague Castle, John Lennon Wall, Charles Bridge, Jan Hus’ head, the astronomical clock, and lots of other places. The competition was intense, but after a long day of smack talking and walking literally all over Prague, my team, consisting of Krista, Becky and I, took the win! I still don’t know what we won, but nevertheless the day was amazing.

So now after reading what must have felt like an essay, you are officially caught up with the shenanigans of our team. God has really been moving here, and it’s incredible to see all the ways He has in just the last week. I can’t believe that we’re almost done with our trip and that by this time next week we’ll be home. If we are sure of anything, it is that God is doing great things here! It is only thanks to His power and your support that all of us were able to come and serve Him in this amazing city. Thank you so SO much for your continued support. I know that every single one of us can’t wait to tell you every last detail that wasn’t able to fit in these blogs! Until next time!

Ya boy,

Paul Singh

P.S. – Sorry I wrote so much #SorryNotSorry

Update #4 – Kenya

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Bwana Asifiwe! (Praise the Lord!)

It has been about a week since our last update and our time in Kipkaren, Kenya is drawing to a close. This last week the team has taken advantage of every opportunity presented to them to engage with the culture and pour their hearts out to the people they encountered. As our team has talked in these last few days we are all realizing that we are not just preparing to go home, but also leaving our second home behind. The hospitality and kindness of the community continue to take our breath away. This week was full of laughter, adventure, and pure joy. I (Mariah) have loved watching the team deepen relationships and engage with everyone they meet. We love the people of Kenya.

This week our team has traveled to many of the surrounding communities. We have visited and drank chai with widows, gone on home visits with Living Room, visited a milk distribution plant, and even visited the site in Eldoret, Kenya (about an hour away) where Living Room is building a new hospice. We have all enjoyed getting to see these different and beautiful parts of Kenya. One of the most interesting elements of this trip is that it is doubling as an Economic Empowerment class and this week we launched into learning about what this community is doing to empower their people. We are getting hands on experience and seeing the fruits of many empowerment projects!

The day we met with the Widow’s Collective Group through Empowering Lives International, we were given a special introduction into their lives and how they have managed to build their future after the deaths of their husbands. This was especially impactful to me (Lauren) as I saw women be given the opportunity to have dignity and strength in their everyday lives. Our team split up into two groups and visited several homes of the widows and heard their stories. These women are outstanding human beings who chose to allow God to show them that they are capable of running households and creating a sustainable future for their families. Many of them had formerly brewed alcohol to earn a meager living.

On Friday it was time to say goodbye (for now) to our friends and newfound family at Living Room. In the same way that we were welcomed, we ended our time with a beautiful goodbye ceremony. As we walked onto the back porch we saw the faces of nurses, guests, workers, and friends who we have connected with in these past two weeks. We stood outside and began to sing together in Swahili. When the singing began, all the children ran out and jumped into the arms of our team, which was a true example of the love that will forever be shared between our team and these people. After we sat down, the staff and some guests gave words of encouragement and blessings to our team. As we stood up, one member of the Living Room team walked up to each of our team members. The boys were presented with locally made shirts and bracelets. Each one of the girls received a bracelet, a small handbag, and a traditional katenge (these often are given for special occasions such as weddings and engagements). I (Mariah), could not help but cry as I looked down the line at our team being presented with these beautiful gifts. You could see in our eyes how much of an impact Living Room had made on all of us.

All in all, I (Lauren) have seen the team be given once-in-a-lifetime experiences to interact with empowerment projects that are literally changing the narrative of impoverished communities in Kenya. We had a class session on Economic Empowerment in Kenya where David Tarus and Professor Brian Albright shared their knowledge of the importance of connecting with community leaders to advance empowerment projects.

Today (5/21), we said our final goodbyes and departed for Lake Nakuru to debrief our trip as a team. Here we will get the chance to go on several game drives and see some amazing African animals. Please be praying that we will have the time to process the trip individually and as a team, as well as for safe travels home. I have heard many team members mention their excitement to reunite with their families and how much they have missed you all.

Much love,

Daniel, Lauren, Jordan, Cam, Max, Justin, Mariah, and Sam