Saturday, July 23, 2011

EX & EV FESTIVAL!


All teams have returned to home base for the remainder of the summer. Our first activity upon our return was a 3-day long traditional island festival in which we were treated as the guests of honor. The festival activities were based on the traditional beginnings of the island beliefs and culture. We enjoyed baskets full of traditional food, watched many ceremonial dances, and heard the sound of various percussive instruments. During the festival, we also competed as the All-American team in a few different games and contests.  

Our first competition was a 500-meter Dragon Boat race. The Dragon Boat is basically an extended canoe that is rowed by about 12 people. There is also one person that steers the boat and another that keeps the rowers in sync by beating a big drum at the front of the boat. In our first race we kept up fairly well and finished in second place, but we finished last in the semi-finals. We (Adam, Josh) also competed in a volleyball tournament and a few of us (Brandon, Zach, Tyler, Josh) swam from one island to another in a 2.5K swim race. 

One night of the festival, Adam, Zach, and I were featured musicians on stage. In front of a fairly large crowd, we joined some friends we’d made earlier this summer as they performed traditional music during the night’s festivities. It was a lot of fun being under the bright lights and being able to entertain all of the people at the festival.  

On the last day of the festival we attended a large fish grill-out on the beach. There were multiple tents that were very generous with their food and we ate a lot more of good traditional food. We also enjoyed more traditional dances and music before the festival ended that night.  

As our summer experiences come to an end and we start to chew on what we have learned, please ask Father to guide us in discerning the application of what we’ve done and seen here. We have a little over a week left at home base before we leave so we also ask that you continue to think of us and ask Him to keep us focused for the remainder of our time here.

Sharing in the newest country in the world

The first week i was in K.K. We got here on Friday and Saturday night they told me I was preaching at a church on Sunday morning. So i prepared and prayed and after I preached I gave no formal invitation whatsoever and three people came up to accept JESUS. One woman was dedicating her baby and afterward she said that she dedicated the baby but she had not yet dedicated herself to the LORD. 

Then we went out for a week of ministry in the bush.  This past week we went "hut to hut" and got personal with people and shared CHRIST with them and some of them straight up left their sinful ways and came to the LORD. Others were not so interested... but they still cooked for us...EVERY DAY! It was interesting. 

We got to baptize around 15 people and trained church leaders and got to do discipleship with lots of people.  The last day we hiked a very long ways, after the first thirty minutes I realized this was gonna be a long hike. It was 1 hour and ten minutes to get where we were going one way.  Oh!!! We got to do open air preaching too it was great... and our translator loved the bull horn! 

-Zul

"Hut to hut" evangelism & holding hands...

This is it... we will be home soon.   We did hut to hut evangelism again and probably my favorite story is when we were sharing the gospel at a hut with a man and two women. One of the women accepted CHRIST and wanted us to pray for her about her being barren.  She said that she had had doubts about GOD because she couldn't have children.  Then she wanted us to go to her family.  So we followed her to her family and her mother in-law was the only believer in the family.  The mother in-law said she had considered suicide because children in her family always die and women are always barren.  Because of this people in the community said that she was doing something to the women and children.  She said that she was greatly encouraged that we had come to share the word of GOD because most of the people in her community shunned her and most of her family said there was no GOD.  We shared CHRIST with the family and the next day the girl came to the church for discipleship- it was awesome!  

We hiked through mountains on another day and did discipleship with a church that was way out of the way. Also this week I met the son of the Pastor of the church where we were staying, his name was Moses.  He was the same age as us so he was very excited to see us.  I got to do some one on one discipleship with him and the last day were were there he took me to the market to hang out and get a soda.  I have been here for almost two months and this was the first time I did the hand-holding thing.  Let me say that I am not shy about showing my affections at all but holding hands with another grown man all the way through the village to the market and then having him buy me a soda was a completely uncomfortable experience if i must say so my self!  I know it is their culture and when men hold hands it means they are friends... so I took it in stride.

-Zul

Rethinking Radical


We don’t need any more books, seminars, or conferences.  What we need are examples.” Matt, a rising college freshman, has spoken for a generation that is tired of being entertained by Christian celebrities and challenged to “go” by executive pastors who stay.  

As I thought about Matt’s statement and the desire of a generation to live “Radical,” I thought immediately of Charles Thomas Studd.  He was born in England in 1860.  His father, Edward Studd, had made his fortune in India. C.T. Studd was handsome, rich, and athletic.  He attended Cambridge University, one of the most prestigious universities of his day.  Studd had a passion for Cricket (the sport, not the insect) and became what others have referred to as the “Michael Jordan of Cricket.” Studd was claimed by some then and today as the greatest player to have ever played the game.

However, after hearing an influential missionary from China speak, Studd, along with 6 others made a commitment to go.  They gave up promising careers and their fame, and walked away from the “Great British Dream.” For several months, the “Cambridge Seven,” as they became known, traveled from campus to campus across Britain challenging students to give their all for the glory of God.  Their testimony and their lives rang with authenticity and awakened the church to His global cause. 

C.T. Studd spent his life as a missionary mobilizing the church to “Come.”  Once he said, “There are more than twice as many Christian ‘officers’ at home among the peaceful Britain’s 40 million evangelized inhabitants, than the whole number of forces fighting at the front among 1.2 billion unreached! And yet such call themselves soldiers of Christ.”

What might C.T. Studd say today to our Christian “officers” at home?  What might C.T. Studd say to David Platt about being “Radical?”

David, your book is good, but it’s not really that radical.  Your call to finish the Great Commission rings hollow to a generation looking for examples. Follow me.  Resign from your church.  Rally six of your friends in similar positions as yourself.  All of you go and spend your life among an unreached people group until you have learned their language and learned their culture, and planted the Church there. This generation may be moved, but never mobilized by your books.  It will take ‘reckless sacrifice and heroism in the foremost trenches.’

I think at this point in the C.T. Studd challenge, Adoniram Judson would be stirred from beyond the grave and the words he spoke in 1832 would echo down from Heaven, “First, let it be a missionary life.  That is, come out for life, and not a limited term. (What would he think of our generation’s short-term mission strategies?) Do not fancy that you have a true missionary spirit, while you are intending all along to leave your people group soon after acquiring their language. Leave them?!  For what?  To spend the rest of your days in enjoying the ease and plenty of your native land?”

Francis Chan hinted at the C.T. Studd challenge when he resigned his mega-church last year to “seek God’s direction and serve for a few months in a developing country.” Now he’s back and the message that is heard louder than his words or books is that, “Crazy love doesn’t mean following Christ long-term to the unreached.”

….But what would happen if all these mega-church pastors resigned? Who would lead their churches?  Thousands of applications would flood their church offices within weeks! Who would rally the church to go if these important voices left? Ion Keith Falconer served as a missionary to Arabia from 1885-1888. (He died after only 3 years on the field, just in case you are wondering why he served short-term.) He had attended the commissioning service of the “Cambridge Seven,” and followed them in their radical experiment for life.  He said, “Perhaps you think you are meant to remain at home and encourage others to go.  You think that by sending money, sitting on committees, speaking at meetings, and praying for missions, you will be doing the most you can to spread the Gospel abroad.  Not so! By going yourself, (He was not talking about a short-term trip.), you will produce a tenfold more powerful effect.  You can give and pray for missions wherever you are.  You can send descriptive letters to the missionary meeting which will be more effective than second-hand quotes gathered from others.”

One final word from C.T. Studd… “Dear David and friends…  Hundreds may go as a result of your books, songs, and conferences, but if you will follow my example and go-- for life--  a whole generation will follow you.  They are waiting for an example.”

C.T. Speer
imb missionary
Southeast Asia

P.S.  This may be the first time in history that the majority of our ‘mission heroes’ are not missionaries.  Where are the voices from the field that compel a generation to come?  Where are those with blood on their faces that challenge a generation to join the fight?  They are serving quietly and faithfully among the unreached and hard to reach.   

Friday, July 22, 2011

A New Member of the Family

The whole point of missions is to sow the seeds of the Gospel across the Earth and hope that the Holy Spirit will convict and move in the hearts that hear it.  While meeting needs and performing good deeds are kind acts of service and definitely not meant to be discounted, soul winning is the heart of Christianity, and while I was with the second Agta team I visited, I got to see God claim a victory in a woman’s life.  

We call her "Nanay Ipa". She was baptized last Tuesday on her birthday!
Kari:  We met Nanay Ipa the first day we came into the village and were inviting people to bible studies.  She is from a family of believers, and she used to go to church.  She stopped going when she got married and had children, and never truly grasped the gospel when she attended before.  The Chieftan told us to conduct our bible studies at Nanay Ipa’s house because it is the only house in the village with electricity.  We began our bible studies there and had a pretty steady group of five women and their children.  The night we shared the Passover story, only Nanay Ipa and her family were there.  That was the night she accepted Christ.  It was such an amazing moment, and we got to have a personal celebration with her since only her family and our group were there.

Kelley Beth:  We could see an obvious change in Nanay Ipa from the moment she was saved.  It was physical as well as spiritual.  Her eyes went from a constant look of defeat to joyful, hopeful, and eager for more of Christ.  We left a Bible with her, and she hugged it close to her as soon as she got her hands on it – her hunger was obvious.  She is such a picture of grace! She’s never had a Bible, and she knew so little, but it all came together for her through the Spirit.  Now she says she is sad for people that don’t know Christ and is eager to share with them.
O’Neal:  Ivan, one of our translators, and I baptized Nanay Ipa in a river close to her home.  It was such an honor to be used by God in that way and to see the act of baptism from a different perspective.  Baptism itself is such a cool picture of salvation, but to experience leading someone else through it and illustrating their salvation to her is definitely something I will never forget.

A new member of the family!




Not Our Words, But His

The plan for the Agta Teams this summer has been to enter each village they visit, build relationships with the people, invite them to bible studies, share a simple series of stories that explain God’s story from creation to the resurrection, and answer any questions the people have in the process.  They make sure to emphasize God’s need for sacrifice to cover sin.  The people sometimes have a skewed view of God and His perception of sin:  they view God as a passive god who loves them and looks over most sin because he is so loving.  Hopefully with the foundation these teams lay, the missionaries that plan to come behind them will be able to further the Agta people’s spiritual growth and their understanding of the saving news of the gospel.

I asked the team members to share what they think of the bible studies and to explain anything God has shown them or changed about them through their experiences this summer.
Macey:  It’s neat to read the Bible with people and see it change their lives.  I see that it is not my words or my wisdom that has the power to penetrate hearts or change lives, but the incredible power of scripture can.  Through our experiences I am learning to walk by faith every day ad really trust the Lord in every situation.  Experiencing things like moving to new villages and not knowing anyone, or wondering how needs would be met for the team, or our water pump breaking has taught me to truly rely on God for every single thing I am given in my life – spiritual or physical.  God has opened doors for us to get everywhere we need to go safely and to make progress for the kingdom once we got there.  None of this is our doing.

Chelsea:  I really like the approach of our bible studies and the importance we place on sacrifice.  The way our lessons end with the people learning that Jesus is now our Great High Priest really pulls everything together for them.  Many of the people come from a very basic Catholic background, so they hear some of the well-known stories and offer their opinion.  When we get to lesser-known stories that they haven’t heard in mass, the people seem to really be thinking hard and trying to understand.  We don’t preach to them or stress our own opinions; we simply walk them through God’s word and let the Spirit work.  This summer God has shown me how to work in a team and the importance of unity.  He has pushed me to have an attitude of humility and child-like faith.  I have prayed that He would make me a woman of prayer this summer, and I am slowly becoming exactly that.

Donnatello:  I think the selection of stories that were given to us to tell is perfect.  The stories are told in an order that build on each other and makes sense to the people.  It’s been really encouraging to see the people willingly accept the Christian ideas that contradict their incorrect Catholic views (Filipino Catholicism is much different from American Catholicism).  This summer has been an experience that is completely out of my comfort zone.  Because I am so far from what I know, God has taught me to let him lead completely in my life.  Also, seeing how these people live and knowing what a tiny piece I am in the puzzle of God’s work across the world has been extremely humbling.

Michelle:  The Bible studies are because we are reading such seemingly simple stories, but the power of God’s word is becoming more and more evident.  We’ve heard these stories our whole lives, but they still speak to us too.  We move chronologically through the Bible, so each story builds on the next.  Because of this sequence, God’s plan for His people is easier to understand for our listeners.  We don’t have to add further detail or tell the story in some dramatic way, we just share and let the Spirit move – and it’s definitely been moving.  God has really been teaching me patience on this trip in unexpected ways.  By adjusting to Filipino culture and the obstacles of camping life, such as always maintaining a fire, hiking to where you bathe, cooking outside, not being able to preserve food, I have had to have patience.  But I haven’t just learned patience for the physical world.  I am now more willing to wait and listen to what God wants for me, and I know changes He wants to make or answers He will give may not be instant, but they are coming.


School Dances Are WAY Better Here!


After establishing strong relationships in their current village and embracing much of the villager’s culture, the team had apparently earned the right to be invited to a party one night after dinner.  The invitation was extended to Ray and Donnatello by some of the men they had been working with that day, so the girls and I assumed that we were not invited.  Ray and Nikki, the team translators, quickly corrected us and said we were all invited.

It was late (for us at least) when the party started, so we were tired and seriously considered just going to bed.  As we laid out our bedding, we started talking about possibly going.  We thought, “….well, maybe we should.” or “How much will we regret this if we don’t?” and “This is a perfect way to build more relationships!” After five minutes or so of discussion our shoes and headlamp were on, and we were making our way to the elementary school of the town.

The school had inducted new officers earlier in the day, and their was a community-wide celebration.  And we mean COMMUNITY-WIDE.  The road to the school had people all around it, and as we were lead into the actual campus of the school, we saw a massive dance area with lights.  We were instantly welcomed and taken by the children to meet teachers and the principal.

After meeting them, we were all quickly invited to dance.  I stood on the sidelines to take pictures while the team, to my surprise, jumped right out to dance with the kids.  As I looked through my lens I quickly saw that this party was so much different than the school parties I have been to.  Teachers, parents, and students covered the dance floor, ALL having an amazing time – not just students.  I was able to take pictures uninterrupted for the first few shots.  As soon as I put the flash on and I took the next picture, I was swarmed with children.  It will never stop surprising me how much Filipino children love to have their picture taken.
I swear...a camera is a kid magnet!
Chelsea:  The party was an amazing experience.  With all of the different ages coming together and enjoying themselves, it felt kind of like I was in a scene from a movie.
Michelle:  I felt like a celebrity – everyone wanted a picture with us.  I didn’t know the party was going to be that big of a deal.  I had imagined my school parties, but they were nothing like this.  It was such a fun way to build relationships.
Donnatello:  The people were so friendly to us from the moment we got there.  On older lady danced with me, but she didn’t dance like she was old!  I was thinking, “Wow, Grandma can move!”  I was great to see the whole community come together and dance.  This was my first time to get to dance since we got here.
Macey:  I felt so welcome, but that we stood out so much.  I felt three feet taller than everyone there!  They loved it when the Americans danced though.  I don’t think they expected us to.
Hopefully, by going to the party, we confirmed our concern and willingness to participate to the people.  After seeing us go the extra mile to reach out to them, maybe more youth age people and men will be more willing to come to the bible studies.  We hope that the Spirit will continue to move in that village.  

All Things to All People


The Chieftan - she was so gracious to the team
The first Agta team I visited (Macey, Michelle, Chelsea, and Donnatello) shared with me how amazing it was in their current village because they truly felt like they were members of the village.  Unlike their first two stops, they stayed with a family in the village, so they were always with the people.  This stronger attachment to the people allowed them to build relationships faster, and those relationships ran deeper.  The chieftan of the village was very helpful in welcoming the team and making their presence know in the village.  Soon, Donnatello and Ray, one of the team’s translators, were working with the men during the day, and the girls and Nikki, the other translator and Ray’s sister, were able to fellowship with the women and children before establishing regular bible studies.
One of the best things to do to be well received in another country, region, or even town, is to fully embrace the culture of the town.  Donnatello and Ray made great steps towards the men by working with them.  We all were able to connect with the people through our interest in what they do with the fibers of a plant native to their area. 
Almost everyone in the village makes their living from these plants by harvesting them, stripping the fibers, or weaving them into goods.  One day while we were hiking through the mountains with the chieftan, we met the indigenous people that lived around the village.  After two hours of hiking, she asked if we wanted to visit one more house.  We said yes, of course, and met the people there.  The people who lived in the house asked if we would like to see where the plants were harvested because the area was only a five-minute walk away.  After the five-minute walk turned into a twenty-five-minute walk, we saw men working, gathering the plants.  They let Michelle, Donnatello, Chelsea, and me strip the fibers from the plants.  It was fun to do and a great bonding moment for the team and the people.
Macey learning the trade
The next day, we were walking through the village inviting more people to bible studies, and we saw some women twisting the dark-type of fibers into strands.  They taught Macey how to do it while we watched. 
A weaving machine for the fibers
Nothing shows someone you care about him and his life more than asking him to teach you how he lives.  For these people, those plants are the center of their lives.  By showing interest in their trades, we hopefully began the process of replacing those plants with Christ.

The Road to Here


After spending a few days living with the one of the Agta Teams, I realized how spoiled I had been by my cushy life in America.  When I got to them, they were staying in the nicest conditions they had been in so far, and their stories of adjusting to their new summer lifestyle were pretty amusing.  They were each willing to share the different struggles and realizations they had on their road to their current village. 




Macey:  I tried not to have any expectations about how the trip would go.  There were some factors that I hadn’t considered, like how or what we would cook or how different the culture would be.  One of the differences it took me a while to get used to was the lack of privacy.  From the first village forward our team was packed in tight quarters and we were always with each other.  It wouldn’t have been a very big adjustment if we had known each other prior to the trip, but when you’re with the same people that much, you get to know each other really quickly.  I think that challenge actually turned into a blessing because we got so close so fast.  The language barrier is also difficult, but most of the people are so welcoming and helpful that it hasn’t been that much of an issue.  Sometimes they even apologize because they don’t know more English to communicate with us, which blows us away considering we are in THEIR country.

Chelsea:  I didn’t expect our group to be as independent as we are.  Not that I expected our supervisors to hold our hands as we went from village to village and supervise every bible study, but I was unaware of how much we would do on our own.    I was surprised by how the people feel personally responsible for us while we stay in their village: they escort us places, in our current village the chieftan checks on us multiple times a day, and in one village they moved us from our tents outside into the Barangay Hall (town hall) because a typhoon was coming.  We stayed in the Barangay Halls of the first two villages we went to, but in our current village we are staying in the home of one of the villagers. Staying with the people all the time makes all the difference.  They have fully included us and we really feel like part of the family – it’s amazing.

Donnatello:  It was difficult at first to travel because we had to hike through so much mud.  It’s hard to be frustrated when you look around though.  The Philippines is such a beautiful place!    I was surprised by how some people lived so primitively, but the men have started to let me accompany them when they work.  That is such a big step because in every village we have been to, it has been relatively easy to reach the women and children, but hard to build relationships with the men.  We are learning better ways to approach the people, and seeing the progress God has allowed us to make in each village has been very humbling.

Michelle:  As I was adjusting to life here on my team in the Philippines, I realized how many things I took for granted in the U.S., like stoves and toilet seats.  I also had to adjust to how much longer it takes to do things here.  I am so used to everything being instant in the U.S. that it was frustrating at first to deal with the delays of travel and cooking – which can take so long between collecting firewood, starting the fire, maintaining the fire, waiting for water to boil, then finally cooking.  I asked God to teach me patience this summer, but I expected him to do it through people, not camping.  He does work in mysterious ways.  It has been amazing to see the people who are spiritually receptive to us, not just welcoming because we are important white people.  In our second village we were so encouraged to see how hungry the people were for the word.  That was the most remote village we visited, and travel was too expensive for the people to go and visit a church or hear a speaker.  There were two conversions while we were there!  They were so eager to hear that we were happy to leave several bibles with them so they could continue to study. 
A fire to cook over at WAIST LEVEL....
and a toilet that FLUSHES!!!!!!  We feel like we are now in the lap of luxury






Kenya: Week 2 (Sorry for the delay on this one!)

THE WEEK THAT WAS.

After a weekend of relaxation the team was ready to move and get on to the most important part of the ministry.We  Started our work at Embakasi Methodist Primary school and  were well received by the teachers and students of the school.

The team was in high spirits and excited to be in the classes with the students, as well as play and share with the children.Olivia and I walked into the kitchen to everyone’s amazement. Do Muzungus know how to cook and wash dishes?That was the question from the one of the kitchen staff. At the end of the day it was not only the Muzungu cooking and washing dishes but also serving the children porridge and food. What a wonder and show of love to the children?
Olivia smiles at a child as she serves porridge

Too much work without play makes Jack a dull boy. The team took the children for games everyday. They enjoyed playing soccer with the balls which we had carried with us.(The school doesn’t have a single soccer ball).The head teacher requested if we could donate the balls to her after the mission trip to which we said yes if at all they will still be usable at the end of the mission trip. As a way of caring for the environment we planted 70 trees to commemorate our service in the school. It was tears as the team wound up their activities  at the end of the week. They had created a bond between, the teachers, and the students of Embakasi.Thank you team.
Liz & Savannah.  "It's enough!" the referee seems to be saying after she was unable to determine the winner.
"Tree, I put you in this soil so that you can be a blessing to these children," Whitney seems to be saying.
Meanwhile Jane and Shera worked at home. Jane is learning a lot from Shera.She intends to use the knowledge she is getting from Shera to train some orphans on sewing. She is already able to make a folder and a bag. She is learning how to make a skirt.  On Friday we visited Kazuri beads factory and the team was amazed by how talented widows are when given the opportunity.

We closed our week by visiting Liberty Children’s Home which Jane and I have been supporting by mobilizing our church members to donate old clothing and food. Romano and James Luah Atah who are the directors of Hope for Sudan and New life ministry respectively, visited us. They shared many stories with the team. Their experiences with orphans, war in Sudan ,and many more.
"We love you"  Whitney & Jane at Liberty as the others play games in the background.
James Luah Atak sharing with the team
Indeed it was a week full of blessings.

God bless you.
Eugenio



Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kenya: Week 5... Still Going Strong!

The team & I with Pastor Elijah at Recovery Community Centre.
We traveled 90 km northwest of Nairobi to a town called Naivasha. Naivasha is situated on the shores of Lake Naivasha which is a fresh water lake in the Great Rift Valley. The main economic activity in Naivasha is tourism and horticulture with Naivasha alone accounting for about 50% of fresh flowers in European markets.
Wildlife is one of the biggest attractions to tourist in Naivasha . Wild animals go about their business uninterrupted by the curious groups of tourists interfering with their natural habitat.

It is here at the Community Recovery Centre that the team spent the 5th week. The centre was started 5 years ago by an Africa Inland Church (AIC) pastor called Elijah to cater to the orphans in the area and empower the local people through community based programs. The centre has 30 orphans and all are attending local primary schools. Community recovery centre is also running a very successful program of giving out sheep to the very poor people and after the sheep gives birth to the first and second born they return the two to the centre and own the sheep. The young ones are passed to other need people and so the cycle continues.

The first activity we took was to renovate some houses for keeping chickens. Another group had bought 300 chicks for the centre so that the children can have their own eggs and chicken meat. In order to reach out to the community, we paid visits to some of the homes where the children come from. We helped them clean the compounds, do household work, milk cows as well as giving them gifts. We also spent a day with kids of a neighboring school where the orphans also go to school. Some of the compounds were completely filled with cow dung and it was joy as we all joined in clean up exercise.
Olivia helps me present a gift.
Shera helps to milk a cow at one of the homesteads.
Among the properties donors have helped Community recovery centre get is a five acre farm and in order to improve the environment we planted 130 trees in the farm which already has some corn growing courtesy of another supporter.
Olivia, Courtney, & Elijah planting trees on the farm.
Cleaning up one of the homesteads.

After a long week at the centre the team resided for a three day vacation in one of the hotels in Naivasha. It was a time to relax and evaluate our relationship with God and at the end I fed the team spiritually with some powerful verses from the book of Micah. We also spent a whole day watching wildlife at Lake Nakuru national park which is another 80 kms from Naivasha. It was a great moment for some of the team members to see a lion three metres away in their natural habitats.



Please continue praying for us.
God bless you.
Eugenio

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pictures from Thailand

Team members with local supervisors


Village team with national partners







Playing "UNO!"