Monday, July 25, 2011

day 6 & 7

 Sunday -- we first went to church at CCF, which is predominately made up of Ross students. Our group lead worship, several youth shared about their experiences and what God was doing in their hearts during this trip, and then Matt shared from Matthew 28, on 'the great commission'. I was so proud of our kids (and encouraged and challenged), listening to them share their hearts. Matt shared right along with what I've been challenged with this week anyway-- getting out and sharing Jesus, wherever we are.
We then went to Grace Gospel Hall, a traditional gospel church. It was really different than anything I'd been to, but was a really neat experience. It started with communion and a cappella hymns, and then more worship. Then Chase (from our group) did a few worship songs and a group did a skit, and then Jordan spoke.
After church, a woman, Mavis, invited us all (yes, all 30 of us!) for lunch. We had a fantastic homecooked meal and enjoyed hanging out.  A few people walked around the property and picked coconuts, starfruit, and mangoes from the trees. So different than Indiana!!
 We came home and relaxed for a little bit and then headed out to the boys basketball game -- boys from our group verses the team that Brandon coaches.
beautiful Audri Jaye

 a group of us watching the boys play. 
Have I mention that we've had INCREDIBLE weather?! In the evenings, especially... upper seventies with that perfect ocean breeze. No complaints from me, especially with the heat wave taking place at home.
 the guys playing-
the Kittitians won by 7 points.
and then today:
I don't have many reports, as we were all different places, finishing up our work projects. Most places wrapped up or have little things left to finish, which Brandon, Nick, Brett and Christa will try and finish the next few weeks, before returning to the US. 
A few groups finished early in the day and then spent the rest of the day at the beach.
The group that I was in (building the play ground) were at the hospital working from 10:30-6:30... but we finished!
 Casey and Layla with their giant juice boxes.
 in progress...
 Megan climbing the rock wall..
 the first Kittitian on the play ground!! 
 Finished views! (Brandon and the others will come and seal and stain it this week, so it won't look like 908 different shades of wood.) 
I'm going to brag on my husband a little-- we tore down the old, termite damaged playground, and Jordan designed this playground in his brain. He'd instruct us on what to do, and we'd do it- with no idea where things were heading. But today, it all came to fruition-- and I am so impressed! :)
Anyway, again, it's late and I don't have access to others cameras right now, so these are just pictures from the places I was. I've heard wonderful things about the turn out of the ladies' house that was painted, the park that was finished, the school that was also painted. I look forward to seeing the others' pictures and seeing the work!
Tomorrow begins our 'downtime'. We have a rain forrest hike planned for the morning, souvenir shopping and maybe the beach. Wednesday will be our day at the Marriott, a nice dinner out, and worship on the beach- which we are ALL looking forward to. It'll be a really sweet time- we're expecting many locals and Ross students, and there will also be baptisms. 
Sorry if this is really scatter brained- there's conversations going on all around me and this has taken me forever to even get this far.
It has continued to be a really sweet time and lives are being changed... I'm really excited for the work that God has began here and seeing change take place once we return home. Please be praying for us as we wrap up our trip and prepare to return to the busyness of home.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

beach day!

 We had a beautiful section of beach, totally secluded and all to ourselves. 
The water was warmer than the air and everyone went right in.

 sweet Nora James, hanging out at the beach.
 Some of our girls, lounging by the water:
lots and lots of rain....accompanied by strong gusty winds.
We had packed a tent, anticipating a full beach day and a need of a spot for the girls (as in, our daughters) to nap. Little did we know it would be our refuge from the blowing sand and strong rain! Wendi and I sat in the tent as Mark Canada held the cover over and the rest of the tent flapped about, staying put only by our weight. We were laughing hysterically in the picture above.
Anyway, Brandon drove as close as he could to the beach and took us girls and babies back to the house, and then shortly returned home with a few other girls. The rest of the group stayed and played in the pouring rain and waves and waited on the bus-- which was to return 3 hours later. Us girls at the house enjoyed a quiet afternoon and the group that staid at the beach raved about the fun that they had. 
All in all- a good day for all.
Tomorrow, our group is leading worship and sharing at two different local churches. A local woman, Mavis, has invited us all to her house for lunch, and then in the evening, there are some basketball games scheduled. 
Please pray for our time at the churches- that we would be bold as we share what God is doing in our hearts, that we could minister to the locals and to eachother, that God would be glorified in the time we have there.
Off to bed! Goodnight!
(It's so hard -- there is so much to share, so many amazing stories, so many testimonies of God's sovereignty, His faithfulness... but there is little time to write (and focus while writing). Be sure to ask us more when we get home-- the things shared here barely scratch the surface!)

Friday, July 22, 2011

day 4 - quick update!

(Nora, trying her first bite of fresh local pineapple. She's also had fresh, local mango and starfruit this week!) 

 Finally--- they are painting at the park! I showed pictures the other day of the walls that were covered in graffiti. After much hassle, they finally were able to powerwash and scrub the walls and then begin painting today. :)

 I know it's hard to see from this perspective, but our playground is REALLY shaping up nicely. We've been doing step by step whatever Jordan asks of us, totally lost as to what we were doing- but now, we can finally see where it's heading, and it's going to be awesome! 
 It was the last day of VBS, and it was a bittersweet day. Over the course of a few days, our group has grown to love these children, and it is so hard to say goodbye. We are hoping to see some of the VBS kids at a few different things throughout the remainder of our time here, though.
We ate a delicious dinner and had a relaxing evening. We went down to the basketball courts and the boys enjoyed playing. A few locals jumped in towards the end... now we're waiting on the guys to return to do a Bible study.
Tomorrow--- THE BEACH!!!!
Sorry this is so quick and short, but I want to go hangout with our group! Please continue to pray for us! Thank you!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

day 3

 Man. I don't even know where to start! We just finished a time of 'bless ups' and 'yay God's'-- a time to reflect and share with the group things we see God doing and orchestrating, a time to give shout outs to your teammates that you've seen God using and working in and through. Tonight was a really, really sweet time... my heart is overflowing

 I just want to share a few little stories with you that I heard tonight from the group. It was very well summed up during our time of prayer, as a youth prayed, "God, I came here wanting You to use me to change lives... but instead, it's my life that is being changed." Hearts are being softened, lives are being changed- and it is an amazing thing to witness and be a part of. 
 VBS... just a little reminder- before we came, we were anticipating around 250 kids.
We had to make a store run tonight for more candy and craft supplies... as we had a total of 450 kids today.
I could tell countless stories that kids have shared. Our youth have fallen in love with these kids, and I've heard countless times how sad they are that tomorrow is the last day. Incredible.

An amazing story, that starts back before we even left the Horizon parking lot:
We were getting ready to load up the vans and Vince runs up to Jordan, saying he forgot his little orange Bible at home, and wondering if he could run to Jordan's office to get his little brown Gideon Bible. 
Fast forward to today.
A group was sitting at VBS in a classroom, when a man walks up to the open window. "Hey, excuse me... I desire to have a Bible. A Gideon one.. you know, one with Psalms and Proverbs and the New Testament. Do you have one?"
Jordan responded that he did, but not with him today, that he'd bring it tomorrow.
The man, as he's walking away turns and adds, "Hey, and, I'm kind of particular about the color. If you have a brown one, I'd like to have a brown one."
Certainly not a coincidence!! Amazing!

Another story from today:
There was a group that was supposed to be painting at a school. They arrived there at the scheduled time, to find the building lock and no one to help them. After waiting and debating for a bit, they decided to walk to the house where another group was painting.
Kristen (who is in the bottom picture) was supposed to be at the school. Quickly after arriving at the house, she was approached by some kids who told her they liked to paint, too, so she let them help out with painting the house. While they were painting, long story short, she ends up sharing Jesus with this little girl, who says she wants to know Him and wants to go to Heaven and prays right there to receive Jesus. Incredible, right?! Even more incredible-- she goes and tells her sister about it, who then comes over and says she wants to pray too!
I was blown away as I listened to example after example.

Jordan shared at the end the of the night tonight. He said, "Yes, this is a mission trip... but all we are doing here is living a Christian life." As Christians, we should be serving. We should be out in our communities, helping wherever there is need. We should be sharing Jesus with those who walk by, wondering why we are doing what we're doing. He challenged us to let this be preparation for going home. 
My heart is stirred, friends. It is relatively easy when our sole purpose in being here is to serve.
Why should our lives be any different anywhere else?! All we've done is step out, get out of our little bubbles, get into the communities here, and God has opened door after door after door. I have no doubt that the same could happen at home.
Please pray that God would continue to stir our hearts, to give us hearts to serve, to give us boldness. 
I'll conclude this with words that we sang during worship tonight... words that seem to collectively echo the hearts of this group:
What can I say
What can I do
but offer this heart, Oh God, completely to You? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

day 2

 Hello! Day two is winding down... last minute vbs prep is happening in the kitchen, air mattresses are being brought back out, people are beginning to head to bed. It was another busy and full day in St. Kitts, and this (10:35) is the first free time most of us have really had today- aside from eating meals and showers, of course.
 The buses arrived and shipped the different groups off to the VBS's. Numbers rose, as anticipated, and things went very well. One of the groups has a large number of teenagers, surprisingly. The VBS curriculum is definitely geared towards children, so they've had to improvise a little. Christa and Ashley were able to share their testimony with some of the girls and have some really awesome conversations. Be praying for those relationships, that they would see the difference in our girls, the joy and love and desire to walk rightly as a result of their love for Jesus. Pray that our girls would be able to minister to these who are more peer-aged, and that the teens would recognize their need for a Savior, and have a desire to know Him and His word!

I (Kristen) have been staying home in the mornings with Wendi and Audri. We wash breakfast dishes and get things back in order, hit the grocery store, and make preparations for lunch. I cannot tell you have much I'm enjoying those few quiet(er) hours with my sweet friend. I've missed her SO much... and even if it's conversation between bottle making and dish washing, I am so thankful for the time with her. :)
Anyway, a few VBS pictures:


Everyone we returned from VBS and we had a quick lunch of grilled hotdogs. Our wonderful grill master (and baby Keaton) :) --
 We stopped by the park where one group was working. Still some hiccups today, but there is high hopes of actually beginning what they had planned tomorrow. They're power washing these graffiti-filled walls and then painting over it.

 We continued work on the playground today. We have the framework done and tomorrow will continue building it. Jordan and I were able to have a neat conversation with a hospital employee today... At the very beginning of our conversation, it was mentioned that we were married. Her immediate follow up to that was, "Are you guys Christians?" Pretty interesting. She had a lot of questions-- wanting to know if being a Christian made a relationship easy, if there were still hardships. She wanted to know if there were still struggles and temptations even though we were Christians. Please pray that we see her again and continue to have conversations with her and point her to the Lord... whose love is endless and perfect, so contrary to the love that this world demonstrates.
Lastly, we had a fantastic meal and then prepared the house for Bible study tonight. There around 10 Kittitians here-- and two small children! Brandon was able to share his testimony with us all and share on   some verses from 1 John 4. It was awesome to be a part of what God is doing here, to hear these locals speak so highly of Brandon and Wendi. It's amazing to see the favor, how God is working and moving. Please continue to pray for these relationships that are being established.
We appreciate your prayers! The kids have had little to no access to the computers, as our days are so full (and let's be honest--- it's really good for us ALL to unplug a little for a little while...), but I've been passing the comments along to the youth as their parents comment on the blog. 
Tomorrow will be a busy day, but a calmer evening. I hope to continue to update daily. All the best!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

day 1

 Hello again, from St. Kitts!
What an amazing view, huh?! Anyway, my hope is to pull pictures from all the different locations for these posts, but I only have a few minutes to post tonight and I can't find my camera cord, and the others' whose cameras I wanted to use are currently at the other house or watching basketball games. So- the pictures tonight are courtesy of Matt Hawkins, the youth pastor from the Ft. Wayne group that is with us.
 Today was, as anticipated, very full.
The day started with breakfast (pancakes-- thanks, Wendi!) at 8 a.m. We ate and loaded up in buses at around 8:45ish. (Brandon told them at 8:15, expecting them to arrive on "Island time".) The three different groups went to three different parts of the island. The VBS that had started on Monday had 230 kids show up today. DOUBLE what was there the first day!!! Another VBS had 100 kids for the first day, and the third had around 40. Awesome!! 
There were so many good reports from the time at Vacation Bible school. It was crazy and busy, we were told, but our kids loved the Kittitian children. I heard several times that they were just really sweet, and very smart. They also love having their pictures taken and taking pictures. :)

All three groups return to the same locations tomorrow. If history repeats itself, there will be a LOT of kids there. Please be praying for our youth as they share (and show) the love of Jesus to these precious kiddos. 
Have we mentioned that one of the church just celebrated its 50th anniversary of being a church... and not one time has there ever been a VBS?! 
Exciting things happening here on the island!!
After VBS, we scarfed down lunch and got ready for our work projects. We have 6 groups, and 5 go out to different locations around the island. The 5th stays at the house and works on things here, cleaning, dinner prep, etc.
The group I was with got to go to a local hospital. It was set up unlike any I've ever been in. And I'm pretty sure it was not air conditioned, as the windows were open and people were leaving with their fans. Our job here was to tear down a playground that had been set up near the Pediatric ward, but was no longer safe for children. It was tilted, had rotting wood, swings had been taken down. We took it all apart, threw away the wood that was not salvageable and will spend the rest of the week building a new one! (I have pictures, but can't upload them...)
There was one group who went to a local elementary school and were painting classrooms on the inside. Another group washed and then began painting the exterior of a residents house. The third and fourth groups were supposed to start things to build the park, but had some hiccups and ended up mostly cleaning up trash. We will be at these same spots, finishing the projects we began the rest of the week. 
Tomorrow I will post more pics of the different going ons around the island, but it's now time for worship and I don't want to miss it!!
Please keep praying for our group! Unity, energy, love, servant hearts, changed hearts....
Thank you! All the best!... as the Kittitians say. ;)