Sunday, December 29, 2013

personal // christmas 2013

On the week of Christmas, we made the best plans. Instead of staying in Choluteca, where we currently live and having a quiet little Christmas in our apartment (because our friends would also be out of town with their family), we decided to travel too! We went on a little adventure to see all of the other friends that we have in Honduras, including our beloved friends at the church we feel called to be working with very soon in Danli.

One wonderful early Christmas present we were given was we actually got to travel and see ALL of the other friends we have in Honduras -- while making a transportation switch-over in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, we got to meet up with our dear friends Jim & Sonia Bridge, whom we got to know while at Mission Training International, for an hour and a half! God is so good; He provides gift after gift for us daily. How wonderful that we were able to meet missionaries that would be serving in the same country as us; how wonderful that we would also be blessed enough to see them for CHRISTMAS!

Getting to see our missionary friends, Jim & Sonia, in Tegucigalpa before heading to Danli. 
Some of our best friends from Danli, Luis & Belkis, had invited us to stay with their family for Christmas. We've stayed with them on previous mission trips. It was such a delight! They picked us up in Tegucigalpa after our three hour bus ride there, and we talked the whole drive home. It had been almost two years since we had spent time together! We could hardly believe it had been that long, because it didn't feel like any time at all. When we arrived in Danli, we immediately began helping the family run errands and prepare for our Christmas celebration; we had just one day after we arrived to get everything ready because in Honduras, they celebrate on Christmas Eve night -- with a big Christmas dinner at about 8:30pm with celebrations lasting into the night. At midnight, people all over set off fireworks and hug each other rejoicing. You're up until at least 2am, if not longer, and pretty much everyone eats Honduran nacatomales and torrejas. Actually, we had a lot of torrejas for several days before and after Christmas! (It's a dessert of cinnamon bread cooked down in a sweet leche sauce. Yum!)

But, on the day before Christmas we had a really important job to do: drive all the way up to the top of a mountain (a very, very bumpy ride, might I add) to a farm to select & retrieve our huge pig to be prepared for Christmas dinner. Our friends had joked that that they were going to make Jamey catch and kill the pig. Thankfully for Jamey they were kidding. :) Here's some pictures from the absolutely beautiful top of the mountain -- we sincerely wish these landscapes were our 100% all-the-time-real-life.

We had to add the pictures of the turkeys from the farm because these two enjoyed chasing Lesley around the farm that day! And their "gobble" hilariously sounded EXACTLY like Hokie game days in Lane Stadium.

Just one view from the top!

The "lagoon" where the tilapia live and grow!
Our silly "little sisters", Lia & Mimi, enjoying some hammock time while waiting on the pig to be done. haha!
Luis grilling half a sack of corn-on-the-cob for Christmas with lime and salt on top! 
After all of the fun on Christmas Eve night, there is a lot of sleeping, cleaning up, and eating leftovers. For us personally, we woke up just before 8am to make sure to video call with our families and siblings! Lesley's grandma in particular thought that video calling was something extremely "nifty", giggled the whole time, and used the call as a "show and tell" time. Then we used the rest of the day to get really good at new card games we were learning from our friends! The family asked Lesley to make lunch that day, with a special request -- her version of spaghetti :) Unfortunately, it hasn't been perfected using Honduran ingredients yet. But it was good to practice again and to get to serve them in that way.

Also on Christmas day, Jamey and Luis (the husband of the family we stayed with, who is a deacon at the church in Danli) went to the dump directly to take the trash from Christmas, so that they could also take extra food to the children that live there and share the Gospel with them.  This was definitely a very meaningful moment for Jamey.

During our week stay, we also were so glad that we went to the Danli church to see what has been updated since we were last there in person! We were so thrilled with and impressed by the additions that have been made to the children's nutrition clinic on site and with the stage in the main church building. It all looks SO great!

The new stage design (left) and the view from the new second story of the nutrition clinic (right). 
Lesley in front of the nutrition clinic, and Jamey with our tour guides,
Luis & his little shadow, Eimi (affectionately called Mimi.) 

We were so thankful for this trip for so many reasons; not only did we get the chance to spend Christmas with people who love and care about us so much (even when we were far away from home) and get to learn about Honduran holiday traditions, but we also were able to reconnect with God in a brand new way about His original calling for this to be our lives in Honduras. We were also able to have talks with some of the leaders about their vision for the future of the church and the communities in Danli as well as our future roles in helping to advance the Gospel in Danli. It was truly a time of rejoicing in Him. Also, as it would have it, we've officially been taking Spanish language lessons for a little over a month now and this trip served as almost a "end-of-the-first-month-exam" for us! This was both of our first trips to Danli with no translators and staying with a family where no one speaks English. Truly by the grace of God, we were able to make it the whole week with little to no confusion and with having wonderful conversations! Of course, it helped that it was two of us working as a team to listen carefully and "translate" in our minds, but we know that it sincerely helped our Spanish SO MUCH. You can't learn a language without practicing it, and there is no better way to practice it than to absolutely have to use it! 

Just a few last pictures we just really want to show (because we know you think that's the best part just like we do):

Jamey getting a LOT of driving experience in Danli! This photo was on our way to
 going to see one of the funniest people we know, Miguel! 

The view from hiking up on the side of the mountain where one of the huge cross statues
is in Danli early in the morning on the day that we left. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

right now // a week of firsts

In Honduras, church service happens on Saturday nights for most churches, including ours. It's still something to get used to, especially since it's dark out when we leave from church -- still feels a little funny! But it's interesting, because it's really put us on a new weekly schedule. Saturday night has really become the official "end" of the week for us. It is well known here that Sundays are dedicated for rest and time with family. Your new week starts from a place of rest, of Sabbath. It's the idea of starting work from a place of rest, not resting from all of the work you've already done all week. (Our Mission Training International friends will certainly understand what we mean about that!) 

So, with this being the end of our week, we took a moment to just think about what we'd accomplished and we realized that we've had quite a few "firsts" this week! It's really been a big week!

1 // We took a public transportation bus around the city out to work at the CDI (the children's nutrition clinic) in Limon for the first time. We had already toured the CDI before, and we have actually taken a long-trip by bus between cities before, but this was our first time actually going out to work there and taking a around the city bus that if you don't hop on it and grab the handle bar above your head as quickly as possible you will either miss the bus or fall down. The buses around the city have the same design as a U.S. school bus, but the seats are closer together to fit more of them. They practically keep rolling instead of stopping for passengers to get on. Thank goodness we had our friends with us who led the way and remembered to turn around long enough to shout "Hang on!!!".

The kids having their morning meeting at the nutrition clinic to start their day! This is also where they had to prove they could remember our names instead of just yelling out "Gringo! Gringo!". (Gringo = white person in Spanish.) 
We had a great time working at the Limon CDI -- they were having more of a relaxed morning, so after Jamey was done helping the older kids with their cleaning projects and after Lesley was done helping feed the younger, malnourished children breakfast, they each got to spend the rest of the morning just playing with the kids and getting to know them all! They all just want any love and attention they can get and to ask us as many questions as possible. It's also always fun when you're a kid to have someone new to explain everything you know about! It also gave us some more practice with our Spanish because kids are always willing to repeat and talk slower because they want you to understand what they are saying.  We can't wait to tell you all more about the nutrition clinic and all that they are doing! 

2 // We were very blessed to be able to see a movie in the theaters in Honduras for the first time, and that we were able to see a specific showing where the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles! We were so grateful for this luxury, because there is no other way that we would have understood an entire movie in Spanish that we'd never seen just yet! It was really nice to go with friends and to be in air conditioning for a few hours too. :) Also, the sound in the theater was much louder than we were used to! We have a new saying that we love to say: "Everything is louder in Honduras."

Lesley obviously overly excited to see the second Hunger Games movie. 
3 // Cooking in Honduras has certainly been an interesting feat for Lesley; everything is different! One huge difference is not having any of the shortcut conveniences for cooking that we had in the U.S., like canned foods (that allow us to always have access to certain foods no matter the availability of fresh, and allow for a lot of work to have already been done... like with canned tomatoes!). So here, you have to make almost everything from scratch. Thankfully, Lesley already had a lot of experience with cooking, experimenting in the kitchen, and learning to make from scratch before now, but there are still a number of things that she never needed to know how to make or prepare on her own. So it's been a week of "firsts" in the kitchen this week, too! It was the first time Lesley made homemade peanut butter, finally perfected a homemade salsa recipe to be just right, and made homemade applesauce! Just a few small steps in the right direction of learning to become a fully from-scratch home cook. But, we have definitely realized that we did not bring enough mason jars for all of this scratch-made cooking!! Also, Lesley already had a lot of practice at making homemade coffee creamer, to which Jamey is VERY thankful. It's not available in the supermarkets here, except for the imported (read: very expensive) version.

First ever homemade peanut butter & applesauce, and a finally perfected homemade salsa. 
4 // We actually had another "first" adventure this week -- it was also our first official time going out to work at the church's living community, Casa Hogar Vida, as well and Jamey's first time driving more than two miles down the road in the city. He did a great job driving on the crazy Honduran roads all the way out of the city limits! If you've ever heard us talk about roads and driving here, it's a real experience. Let's just say there are a lot less road rules than we are accustomed to!  Be on the lookout for more information about Casa Hogar Vida soon!

Lesley outside of one of the new orphanage "family homes" at Casa Hogar Vida.

5 // This week was also Jamey's first haircut in Honduras, which was MUCH overdue with how quickly his thick curly hair grows. However, the end result is much better described as "Jamey's first Latin American 'Do!". We, with our friends included, all found it very humorous! He came out with Latin American vertical hair "stacking", Latin American sideburns, and a definitely Latin American mustache (with no more beard). The mustache, especially, wasn't his intention. Lesley couldn't even believe it! He looked Honduran! :) With a couple of fixes from Lesley and a good clean shave, the old "Jamey" look is back now.

6 // On Friday, we had our first Christmas party in Honduras!! We went to our small group's annual Christmas dinner with the other same-aged small group from the church. It was very fun, but the games were quite an experience! Before the food came out, they had everyone pull their chairs away from the table in a large circle and basically played "Hot Potato" with balloons that had sparklers affixed to them. In order to pass it to the next person, you had to say a word that started with the letter chosen for that round. If the balloon popped on your turn or you got scared and dropped it on the ground, you were out! We both elected to stand aside to watch and take pictures. Hondurans absolutely LOVE anything with firecrackers!

Our small group's annual Christmas dinner, with our friends Frank & Emily (top right),
and silly games with firecrackers (bottom). 
Bonus: 7 // Tonight at church was our first time hearing "Amazing Grace" performed in Spanish. We have already heard many songs we know performed in Spanish, but there was something very comforting and peaceful about hearing the melody of that particular song. It's a melody that you know, recognize, and feel no matter what language it is.         

Friday, December 6, 2013

friday photo dump // december 6

The amazing views from flying that remind you how widely diverse the world is,
and just how big God is. 

One of our new favorite foods in Honduras -- plantains!
This picture is from Lesley's second attempt at cooking them at home. 

Jamey's battle against the ant colonies continues -- from tiny sugar ants to the bigger ones that bite!
This was when we were trying to see if cinnamon really does keep them away. 

A "Honduran" Thanksgiving! We hosted our neighbors/friends/co-workers, Frank and Emily, at our apartment for the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving to show them our appreciation for taking so much time out of the last several weeks to take such good care of us! We couldn't find suitable turkey, so we roasted a chicken instead! Complete with brown sugar-glazed carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes, some awesome mac & cheese that Emily brought, and Lesley's homemade apple pie. Pretty good for week 2 of trying to figure out how to cook things in Honduras! 

What pictures happen when some of your favorite kiddos host you overnight when your 
flight gets in super late at night, and they wake you up promptly at 6:45am to say hello. 
They were a very good cheering-up squad.(Also, the bottom row is what pictures happen when those kiddos take your phone and try to do it themselves.) 

As many of you know, Lesley flew home this week for her grandfather's funeral.
She found a lot of comfort in helping go through some of the family's old pictures of Papa.
These are some of the really great ones we are so blessed to even have. 

This is a classic picture from Lesley's family; three-year-old Lesley inviting Grandma and Papa to tea.
With real cookies, not pretend ones, of course. Remembering cherished memories especially this week.

A really cool God moment from this week: Lesley was really heavy-hearted from the news about her Papa and having to internationally travel alone, so she prayed a lot on the way to the airport that God would sit her beside whoever He wanted to; the whole way to Virginia, God answered this prayer in every way possible, including by meeting missionaries (on the plane ride!) from an organization that provides accurate translations of the gospel story into dozens of languages all over the world. As a gift, they sent Lesley this children's story book in Spanish to help in her ministry here. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

personal // first stop: Choluteca, Honduras

As you all know, our “first stop”, or really our first home in Honduras is the city of Choluteca. Our move was the first time we had ever been to this city or this part of the country, so it was definitely been a great learning experience! Here’s a look at our first week:

Our flight path map on the way to Honduras!

On Monday, November 11, we started our day super early -- woke up at 3 am (after going to bed at midnight) and got to the airport by 5AM. We were surprised at the Roanoke Airport by two dear friends and NLCF staff members, Adriana and Jeanette, who came to see us off! Once we got to Atlanta, we didn't even have time to sit down because boarding started so quickly. Then the 3 hour flight to Tegucigalpa! Made it through customs just fine and all of our bags made it!!  Then our friend who works for GCLA, Frank (who has been serving as our translator), the missions coordinator from Choluteca, Levi, and one of the deacons from the church in Danli, Kike, were all there to greet us. We went to lunch and got delicious Honduran food right away (we hadn’t eaten yet, so we were hungry!) and then went to do some more on our residency cards process to further the process along. The ride to Choluteca took about three and a half hours. We were dozing off so much in the backseat of the truck because it got dark at 5:30PM and our bodies wanted the sleep they were lacking! But thankfully, just before then, we were wide awake enough to see this big opening in the mountain valley and the most AMAZING pink sunset. 

Pastor Geovanny's sweet dog, Maya!
For the first week here we stayed at the pastor's house, and his three sweet sons speak English and graciously translated for us when we'd get "stuck" with words in a conversation. We had plenty of Spanish lessons while at their dinner table! But for the first night, they took us out to get Honduran-style pizza: loaded with lots of ham, olives, shrimp and giant mushrooms. Crazy! Honduran Coca-Cola to go with, of course!  The Coca-Cola is different here because they use real un-processed sugar from the sugar canes they grow here in Honduras.  It is much sweeter!

The view from the orphanage and mission's house. 

Tuesday we got taken around to all of the projects that the church does with pastor from the church, our translator, Frank, and his wonderful wife, Emily, who is actually from the U.S.! The church here has several successful projects going on, and we are in awe of the outreach each one achieves. It was so helpful to be toured around each one of them to get a better understanding of how each project operates. We were also taken to community areas where the church has helped specific families and their individual needs. You can see pictures from one of those stories, here.

Our meeting over milkshakes :) 
Wednesday we were around town all day in stores, locating and pricing things we would need to buy for our apartment. While doing so, we were also given a mini "tour" of the heart of Choluteca, seeing the markets,  the church and the church's bilingual school, even a little museum AND a meeting over milkshakes! ;) On Thursday, we selected and reserved our new apartment in Choluteca. We could not be more blessed that the apartment just two doors down and in the same building as Frank & Emily was available.

Friday was a rest day for us, as we had been going non-stop since we arrived in Choluteca, and Lesley wasn’t feeling well. We did, however, attend our first small group meeting that night which was, of course, completely in Spanish. We didn’t understand much, but we did meet a lot of new people, wrote down words that we recognized during the lesson (to encourage ourselves), and the both of us even won a group game (in Spanish, y’all)! It was a good night.

Black sand and Honduran hammocks. Jamey was clearly exhausted from the week!
Saturday we were invited to go to the beach in Choluteca for lunch that was about 45 minutes away, with the pastor of the church in Choluteca and his family, and with one of the pastors from the GCLA church in Tegucigalpa and his family who was in town to visit the church. We rode to the beach with the visiting pastor’s family, and then spent so much time at the beach talking with them. They spoke some English, and their sweet kids were very proficient at English. They helped us with words we were curious about, and taught us some new ones! It was a great time, and we made wonderful new friends. We even received another Christmas invitation from them – we had already been invited to celebrate Christmas with a family in Danli & with a family in Choluteca before that! The beach in Choluteca was very different than any beach we had ever been too. We had both never seen the Pacific Ocean and had never been to a beach with black sand or a beach with a mountain view beside the coast! We were thankful for plenty of shade (and the Honduran hammocks) since it was VERY warm there. We also had the best shrimp we’ve ever had with perfect plantain fries!  

Edwin, our new friend that translated the church service for us!
That evening was our first church service at the GCLA church in Choluteca. This church is much larger than the one in Danli, and we (well, especially Lesley) were very impressed with their music and stage setup! We recognized several songs in Spanish, and loved when the chorus of a song would repeat a lot because then we’d totally have the hang of it then. J We were given a very pleasant surprise when the oldest child of the visiting pastor, Edwin, who is 17, offered to translate the sermon for us over remote headset. He knew we wouldn’t understand much any other way, and he also wanted to get more practice with his live event translation, so he graciously translated the whole thing even though he was very nervous! We were able to take an entire page of notes, which we promptly showed him after the service, to prove to him that he had done a marvelous job for us.

We spent that Sunday going around to various stores to purchase most of the smaller items we would need for our apartment (like curtains, plates, cups, and pots & pans), with our move-in date set for the next day! 

During our second week, we got all moved in to our apartment in town, which thankfully is near a lot of things, since we don’t have a car. (You can watch a tour of the apartment, here!). We can go to the store right beside us to get more filtered water jugs for drinking & cooking and the basics, which is great to have in walking distance. It has also already proven to be both extremely helpful and very fun to be living so close to our amazing friends. They are also being kind enough to let us use their washing machine while we are here so that we don't have to use the concrete washboard all the time! We seriously cannot say enough good things about how irreplaceable they have been to our quick adjustment to this new city, and to navigating living in Honduras in general! They have never been shy to any question, and have been so patient with us.

We spent the week purchasing our furniture and appliances, getting our internet and such things set up, finding a language tutor and unpacking. We moved in with just a bed, fridge, and a borrowed fan the first night, but quickly bought two fans the next day! The second day we did an intense cleaning of the apartment since it had not been occupied in several months, with some much needed help for the first half of the day. It felt so great to unpack! It was hard at first getting used to a new method and style of cooking, to a new grocery store with different items & everything in Spanish, and to a much heavier load of household chores all in one week, but we are starting to get the hang of it!

One of our first language tutoring sessions with Miriam (left);
 Using pictures in order to learn Spanish words, so that we don't use English in the process! (right)
On that Friday, we had our first Spanish language tutoring session in our home. It felt good to start learning! We spent the weekend catching up on communication with our organizations, ministry and prayer teams, and friends & family.

We are now into our regular schedule of language tutoring every afternoon for several hours, Monday through Thursday. It has been essential to have time to get accustomed to prepping our lessons for each day, which takes a significant amount of time. Because our language plan is completely learner-driven, we are responsible for preparing what we’d like to cover for each lesson! Thankfully we were given that incredible language learning plan handbook from our training at MTI!!

Thanks for sticking with us through this long update! We wanted to be sure to let everyone know what our lives are currently looking like this early in. Thanks to everyone who has been praying for our move and adjustment period! You are so appreciated! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

video // a tour of our apartment

In just a day or two, we are going to be posting a big wrap up of or first two weeks in Honduras to the blog! But, before we do that, we wanted to check-in for the first time via VIDEO!

And the direct link in case you can't play this one or would like to view it larger:

This video is a tour of our apartment in Choluteca, Honduras. It's super cute and very yellow. :) And starting to already feel somewhat like home. So, we hope that y'all enjoy the video tour and we hope that you will forgive us for our lack of professional video-shooting skills! Hopefully we'll get better with practice.

And a bonus, just because it's our first video and we think it's funny:

See if you can find a) the terminology Jamey tends to use because he's an engineer, b) the phrases that both Jamey and Lesley use because they are from little Southern towns, and c) see if you can count just how many times we use "um" as a filler word. Yes, we'd love to know the actual number count!

With love FROM HONDURAS for the first time,


Monday, November 11, 2013

right now // make this place your home.

On this, the day that we are finally getting on that plane to literally change our home and place of residence, we are taking a lot of refuge in the calming, gentle, wonderful sounds of music. And there is a song we'd love to share with you today. 

Ever have those songs that touch you in a way that, to you, they mean whatever you need them to mean? Well this one has been that for us. It's called "Home" by Philip Phillips. Technically, we don't know the meaning of why this song was written or what the words were chosen for. And yes, it was debuted on the (secular) pop music charts. But in just listening to the melody and the lyrics, to us, it feels like it is from the point of view of the Lord, just talking to us. Ever since this song came out (in May 2012, have you!), it has felt like a "chin up, my darling child" sentiment from God, that He is saying,

"we'll get there, we'll get to Honduras, together, and I'll work it all out for you. It will even start to feel like home before I'm done. I'll do everything needed to make it feel that way for you." 

So we'd like to invite you to sit back, read these lyrics, and maybe even listen to this incredible instrumental version (that is enough to make anyone feel loved and provided for by God -- oh, beautiful music.).

"Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home"

We are so thankful for the gift of music that God has given us on this earth, and that it truly is art that can truly be interpreted by the beholder, the one listening and relishing in it. Do you have a "secular" song that means something very spiritual to you? If so, please share it with us in the comment section below!

Thank you all so much for all of your prayers, support, and love that has gotten us to this point. Thank you for believing in God's call for our lives no matter what. We'll let you know as soon as we can that we've made it safe & sound. 

If you'd like to hear the original signing of these lyrics, please click here.  

For other songs that are bringing us comfort & peace today,  here's a few more so you can listen with us:

Friday, October 25, 2013

training // goodbyes & hellos

Saying goodbye to Colorado, then Virginia, and then a "hello" to this beautiful Honduras.
On our last couple of days at our training at MTI, we had all completely bonded more than most all of us had even imagined we would. We knew that we were being asked to live completely in community for a month -- every meal, every time you wanted to use the internet or sit on a couch, every time you went to class, you had to be with everyone. That's a lot of people time. And a lot of other-people's-kids time. We went in afraid that we might not really have an down time or that we might just get too much "people time". And for people like us, you know - extreme extroverts - if we're afraid of too much people time, that really means something.

Well by the end, the extroverts & introverts alike were broken hearted to be leaving. We all had kind of just blended into one giant family; there were times where each of us had been a part of the "village" that it takes to raise each kid, we had eaten plenty of meals with every person there, and together we'd been through plenty of both ups and downs. Even plenty of those moments where everyone has so much fun getting really too into games that you're playing. Sounds just like a family, right?

After this month of making family with people who are all going out all over the world, our training had to come to an end. And, of course, at that end when we have bonded so much, our trainers had us go through probably the hardest topics we'd cover: grief & loss, and goodbyes & hellos. During our day spent on grief & loss, we were asked to go deep and explore those losses we are guaranteed in our new vocation:

1) the loss of a stable home; a place that is familiar to you, that offers warmth and security, a place of refuge. This is the loss of consistency and dependability and balance. 2) the loss of safety; this is the most underestimated loss in missions. In America, one of our core values is safety and comfort -- what happens when you find out that the system is corrupt and justice isn't there. There are so many "what ifs" of what could actually happen to you now. 3) the loss of competence; who are we when we are stripped of our ability to contribute in a new language and a new culture? 4) the loss of identity; how to you grieve when you realize that in many ways you'll never be an insider anywhere & when you realize how much of your identity was set outside Christ before? 5) the loss of support system; we're now entering a vocation that is a revolving door of relationships, and we're being asked to grieve the loss of friendships that must be transitioned out in order to make room for new ones. 6) the loss of quickly and easily attained goals; going and making disciples of the nations is a job that's never done. It's hard to feel like you've made a difference.

We had a two hour period of time where all we did was grieve together; we sat and prayed with and in front of each other and let each other cry. It's honestly what we didn't even realize that we needed... to be able to grieve these kinds of losses of everything we know and hold dear with people who are doing the same thing. "A heart awakened to great love is also opened to great pain."

And if one day full of facing our heartbreak and pouring tears wasn't enough, we had another one the very next day -- our last full day of classes. This time our focus was on saying goodbyes & hellos and opening up to each other about the people, places, even pets, that we are having such a hard time saying goodbye to. Our trainers gave us TONS of advice on how to say our goodbyes well, because healthy goodbyes are part of a gift that we're giving to those we are going to say hello to, so that each person gets as much from us as the last. We have to let people know what residence they have taken up in our hearts, as well as admit that it hurts. But we can't forget about our "I can't wait to go!" attitude, in being firm in what God has called us to.

Our last day was our goodbyes and a time of "praying around the world" -- praying specifically for each missionary that is going out into the field from our training class. And the list is amazing; they are going out to Mexico, South Sudan, Ecuador, Thailand, Honduras (not just us, another couple too!), China, Nigeria, Swaziland, the Middle East, Kenya, Albania, Japan, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Niger, Malaysia, and Central Asia. Our trainers then did our commissioning, and gave us an incredible example of how to say our first "good goodbyes". As in African tradition, one of our senior trainers, who is South African, led everyone in walking each group that left out of the building, following them all the way down the driveway, and waving them goodbye until they couldn't see us any more. (It was so incredibly precious, and obviously made Lesley cry.)

And with that, we had to say one of the hardest goodbyes we've had to do in a while, just because of how unique it was. We had not had a close community of people around us in a long time, since all we've done over the last year is move around and travel. We also had never had to say a goodbye to people dear to us that we may, quite literally, never see again. But it hurts because we loved well. 

Please be praying for us as we are about to say the really, really hard goodbyes -- goodbyes to home and to family. Please be praying that we would do these really well, even when that means relishing it how much it hurts. Next step is Honduras! Next step is a brand new kind of life.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

training // what we're walking away with, pt. 3

Our MTI training class family :)
In hopes that these posts would not be too long, we've split them up into more achievable lengths. To read about the beginning of our cross-cultural training, please read "what we're walking away with, part 2." 

In reference to thinking about our personal values & beliefs (from our previous post), as Americans, and as Christians, we had to explore when we should embrace a new culture's completely different values, and when we should protest them in our training. Of course, God's Word is absolute -- we must always conform to what the Word asks of us, even if it directly contradicts a culture that we are living in. Because when we obey God, we make a statement that He is trustworthy, loving, and in control; He is not vindictive, unpresent, or mean. Him giving us commands does not take away from His mercy or compassion or knowing of all things. We are just making the statement that He is God and we are not.

But what about the areas that the Bible is unclear on? For this, we explored the ministry of Paul.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23: Paul’s Use of His Freedom

"19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, 
to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. 
To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not 
under the law), so as to win those under the law.21 To those not having the law
 I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law 
but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak
 I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that 
by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel,
 that I may share in its blessings."

We learned that Paul was motivated to be spiritually fruitful, morally faithful, and culturally flexible. Conforming and embracing a new culture was permitted in his ministry when Christ-centered principles were not compromised; where he could enhance the unity for people he was sharing the gospel with. But he never violated his allegiance to Christ.

One of the values we are called to have as followers of Christ is to be people who take rest and keep the Sabbath. We spent an extended amount of time on this topic, and  had to ask ourselves this question, "We would never intentionally and maliciously break any of the other commandments, so why do we do it with this one?". We explored our tendency to overwork, especially coming from our culture in the U.S., and it's impact. It seems that even when our sole job is to work in ministry, we are so tempted to break this command that God has given us. God asks us to start our week in celebration and awe of what He has done... to start & work from a place of rest, not rest from a whole week of work. Taking rest & Sabbath is being obedient no matter what is convenient; it is declaring that we are marked and set apart for God. It was really beneficial for us to explore this often glazed over or forgotten concept with our classmates and trainers, especially to try to seek out why we personally act the way we do towards taking rest, and to help us see ways where we can actively place rest into our lives. The day that was devoted to learning this really taught us that everything, every bit of time and moment, doesn't have to be qualified & counted for. Disciplines of rest and play, even of taking time to see God's bigness and "wasting time" has it's own time, place, and function. (Luke 10:38-42, anyone?) BOY, did we need to hear that lesson. (Again.)

Our "Transition Bridge" exercise.
Another major topic of discussion during our lessons was transition and stress. Remember the crazy looking picture from our extras post? With that exercise, we were learning about the different phases of transition: settled to unsettled to chaos to resettling to new settled; and how our big transitions in life take at least 2 years to complete. Yep, years. And everyone will go through these phases at different times and paces. With transition, of course, comes great stress. Especially that tricky time of complete chaos that feels like you have no "normal", no sense of steadiness. For this, we learned about identifying different kinds of stressors (and how Jesus experienced these same kinds while on Earth), our personal signs & symptoms of stress, and how to make a plan for managing stress BEFORE it happens. Then, to take it to a whole other level of truly learning about ourselves under stress, we then had to undergo an intense high-stress simulation for about two hours. It was amazing what we learned about ourselves when simulating a situation of what you do when the unthinkable happens directly to you.

Amazing what all they can fit into just two weeks, huh? We were so floored by the reality of what is soon to be happening in our lives and all of these multiple facets of our new lives, that we are just so thankful for amazing trainers that have so much experience in both decades of mission work personally and in years of teaching so many other training classes. Without their passion, authenticity, and real, honest, open stories of all of these lessons and principles having to be put to use, we would not have learned half as much as we did. Thank you so much to all of the staff at Mission Training International to being so committed to teaching each and every person that comes to learn from you.

Please stay posted on even more that we learned from our training there. More, you say? Yes, even more.


If you'd like to read more blogging from our classmates:
- "Embracing Inefficiency", by the Janicek Family
- "Missionary Boot Camp", by Alexis
"Entry Posture", by The Russell Family

Monday, October 21, 2013

training // what we're walking away with, pt. 2

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:7-10

Since the very first day of our cross-cultural training portion of our time at MTI, we have been eager to share about it all with you, our blog readers & ministry team. But when you are learning things that make you understand even more of how just so very complicatedly human you are, it's so hard to explain it all. All of the topics we learned about hit us to our very core, and it was just a taste of what life-changing and challenging things we know we'll be experiencing by working in cross-cultural ministry.

As one of our classmates excellently put it, it all felt a whole lot like "missionary boot camp". All topics were things that are incredibly hard to even talk about with someone we know really well, let alone with people you'd only known for two weeks. But, the one factor we had working in our favor is that we are all in a common place and can absolutely relate to one another. This helped us to just grow even closer as we explored these so-hard-I-don't-even-really-want-to-go-there-right-now places. One of the greatest things we are walking away with is that we now have a vocabulary to explain a lot of these hard places, feelings, struggles, and reactions.... and people who we can reach out to that are always going to be right there with it us.

Please forgive us if the way that we explain it all doesn't quite make sense yet. :)

To start us into getting down to the nitty-gritty really fast, the first item on the agenda was to discuss conflict. This began by doing an assessment about ourselves completed by us, by people that are close friends & family, and by exploring our last conflict we'd had with someone. Talk about intense homework!! ... calling a person close to you and asking "how well do I handle conflict, how does it make you feel, and what I could I do better?". With this, we learned a TON about different conflict handling styles; how we perceive others' styles and what we can appreciate about & what we might need to confront about them. We also learned that we can most often be misunderstood in conflict when we overuse our dominant style of handling conflict. This section was so helpful in us understanding and being able to pinpoint why we react the way we do in so many different situations, and was really helpful to us even in just understanding each other even better!

We also went through several different sections on adjustment and culture shock. We had to explore ourselves -- what our personal values & beliefs are, and how they influence the filters through which we view things -- and come to an understanding that literally everything we see as "normal, natural, right, and good" could be challenged in the new culture that we are moving to. But that doesn't mean that different values and beliefs from our own are automatically wrong; most everyone across the world acts from a place that is normal & good from their own frame of reference. We do have to be prepared that many countries, including Honduras, have different focuses on everything from the degree of directness that is appropriate, on productivity, the importance of time, on change & tradition, on privacy, equality vs. hierarchy, relationships vs. tasks, etc. We have to be ready to step into each one of these different ways of operation and see the value in them, even if to us they do not seem "natural" or even logical.

We learned that when we will be living and working across cultures, we'll be frequently finding that our personal values will be in conflict with the values and expectations of the people of the culture we're in. Our values could be affirmed, but they could also be challenged; and it will be up to us whether we feel it is most appropriate to change to their comfort zone, or retain our own value either modified or as is.

What do I mean by personal values? I mean how much value we put into things like independence, education, intimate friendships, routine, law & order, safety, effective use of time, schedules, equality, freedom, justice, cleanliness, self-reliance, respect, even adequate resources. What our personal values are and how much weight we put into them will effect the lifestyle choices that we will make on the field. And the reality is that we can't please everyone... "try to please all and you will end up pleasing none." We must first consider God, our spouse/family, and the people we're working with when making our lifestyle choices. And we learned through this training that the most important thing to do when making decisions is to consider our longevity -- it was very clearly explained to us that if we do not live in such a way that we can take care of ourselves long term, we will end up burn out and will have a high, high risk of coming back prematurely.

But often every choice we have to make feels so much harder to make as missionaries, since we have so many more stakeholders that we have to consider. All of a sudden new people (like our supporters, sending organization, nationals of our new host country, sending church, other co-laborers,etc.) that are all effected by or have weight in the decisions that we have to make. And some decisions and lifestyle choices for us will occur daily on the field; things like food, clothing, scheduling, housing, and even what our male/female family roles will look like, are all decisions that are under a microscope for us while working in a new cultural that is unlike our own. We have to live in such a way that balances us taking care of ourselves for the purpose of longevity, and living in a context to where we are not a distraction of the Gospel. 

In hopes that these posts would not be too long, we've split them up into more achievable lengths. To read about the rest of our cross-cultural training, please read "what we're walking away with, part 3". 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

training // a double weekend wrap-up & a birthday

We are loving Colorado and our time spent in community with fellow missionaries about to enter the field so much that we wanted to share about some of our other great experiences here outside of class while you wait for our "part 2" portion of what we're learning about at training. This Saturday marks the end of our training and the end of our cross-cultural training portion of the training. Be on the lookout after that to hear from us on all that we have learned from this second half of training soon!

Our second weekend in Colorado, we went on an adventure out to the Garden of the Gods -- a spot that everyone had told us was a do not miss! We went with our close friends we've made here, Casey and Keri. It was such a beautiful day and the sun was so warm coming down on us. The rock formations were awesome and we saw a lot of registered rock climbers enjoying the park, and even accidentally happened upon a wedding! Here are some pictures of the beauty: 

Then after lunch, we headed to this little town called Manitou Springs just to explore. We were quickly told by a local townie that there were 7 naturally carbonated springs full of different minerals that we needed to try while we were there! People have been drinking from them for hundreds of years because of the health benefits of the mineral contents, and each one of them tastes completely different.

Pictures from three different springs that we found & tried!
Well, since we were just along for the ride of whatever this town had to offer, we went off to find them! They were truly very different from each other just as had been described to us! Thankfully that sweet lady had also given us some little cups to use so we didn't just dunk our faces in. :) 

Lesley's birthday was on the following Thursday, but we can still count it in the double weekend wrap-up, right? Well, it was the deepest, most stressful day of our training but Jamey made sure we still celebrated it well! He had a surprise cake brought out at our community lunch AND took Lesley out for a dinner date complete with an ice cream run! It was so great to get our own little alone time away from the training center. 

Our new friends at MTI also helped make Lesley's birthday extra special as well! It was so amazing. They decorated our room door with signs, balloons, and gifts and were so, so gracious to us and showed us that they have been really been paying attention to things we like! They thoughtfully stocked Lesley up on her favorite candy, tea, a Spanish gift bag, AND got her a new Camelbak water bottle for Honduras since her's was breaking. It was such a blessing! She also got mailed cards and gifts from family, including a beautiful arrangement of flowers! She felt so loved and at home for our first birthday away from Virginia.

This past weekend, we intentionally spent time having a more calm down time since our lives will be getting much crazier and more fast-paced as soon as we leave training. On Saturday morning, Jamey spent time with 4 other friends tackling a really difficult 1500 piece puzzle, and Lesley had a ladies coffee & tea morning with her small group here to share our life stories with one another. 

We then went out to Red Robin for lunch to get Lesley's free birthday burger (and endless fries!!) and something wonderful happened.... 

...... our HOKIES were on the tv right in front of us! While we were in Colorado! It was wonderful! 

Later on that day, Lesley spent the afternoon babysitting for a couple she's gotten to know here that has four kids so that they could go on one last huge shopping trip to get everything they need to move to Niger. Jamey got invited to go play mini golf (where he got completely beat!), and we spent the rest of the day just resting our bodies and minds. 

We were overjoyed on Sunday when we found a church that we really loved with awesome biblical teaching. We and our friends left feeling so refreshed from the sermon; it was exactly what we needed, especially after the draining week we had. Then for the rest of the day, Jamey went on a hike with a bunch of the guys from our training class, and Lesley had re-doing nail polish party with some of the little girls & their moms, and painted a lot of tiny little polka dots on tiny little finger nails. :) 

We having been SOAKING in the wealth of knowledge we are receiving here, and we are so excited to share it with you in just few short days! Please be praying with us that our last days here will go well, as well as our goodbyes with our great new friends.