Friday, July 31, 2009

Ensenada 2009: Part 3

On our first official "Outreach Day," our team was sent to a "soup kitchen" set in the hills near Ensenada. We were joined by our Y.W.A.M.-appointed host, Mikey, his co-host, Jessie, and a translator, Felipe. All three of them fit right in with our team and were so helpful in all our ministry opportunities! We love them dearly! We arrived at the soup kitchen (shown above) in the late afternoon. It definitely looked different than what any of us had expected. This "soup kitchen" is really a one-family home containing three rooms. The largest room functions as a combined kitchen and living room. There are also two bedrooms, one for the couple that owns the house, and the other for their two biological sons. There was no bathroom and no running water. The lean-to shown in the above picture is their "dining room," which holds two long tables and roughly twenty-five chairs. The roofless addition, Lord willing, will one day become a more permanent dining room. Above, leader Dan poses with the owner of the soup kitchen, whom I'll call Senora S. This incredible woman and her husband feed and bathe roughly 30 extra children every day, out of their own pockets. They also buy school supplies for those kids and transport them to school. Some of the children they care for are "street children." They fend for themselves on the streets of the city, with no one to protect them or look after them. Most of the other children live in abusive homes, where they only return to sleep at night. Senora S. shared her testimony with our team, and told us that she was emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by her father as a child. When she became a Christian in her early 20s, she felt the Lord calling her to provide a better life for the children around her, and she is certainly doing just that. We praise the Lord for this incredible sister in Christ! The guys on our team played soccer and baseball with the Mexican boys, while most of us girls did crafts with the Mexican "chiquitas." We decorated foam wristbands with our names on them, then colored pictures of all sorts of things. It was fun to draw something simple, like a flower, ask the girls the Spanish name for it, and then teach them the English word. Then it would be their turn to draw and we would switch roles.
The boys enjoyed using the craft materials to make paper airplanes. (Boys will be boys! And like my mom always says, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!")Above, a little boy flies one to my friend, Gracia.
The kids also really liked having jump rope competitions. If I remember correctly, our translator, Felipe, won with 121 consecutive jumps! Notice, in the background of this picture, that the washer and dryer were outside under a tarp. In another corner of the yard was a barrel of water and a bag of soap flakes for handwashing. The outhouse was located behind and to the right of the boy in the striped shirt.
Before we ate together, some of the children were asked to pray. These beautiful kids bowed their heads together and prayed for salvation for the drug dealers and prostitutes of their city. Not your typical childhood mealtime prayer! Sadly,these kids have seen a lot in their short lives. After helping to serve the children supper (rice and lentil stew, corn tortillas, bananas, and some sort of red juice), we asked them to line up their chairs in the vacant lot next door, so that we could share some dramas. Above is one of our beautiful clowns, Moriah, waiting for her turn in the spotlight ;-).
Here our fabulous host, Mikey, sets up the speaker for the dramas. We took this speaker and a microphone everywhere we went during the outreach days, and Mikey and Felipe always jumped in to get them ready. Mikey is a 19-year-old from California with an incredible testimony. He lived in a very abusive home, where he started drinking when he was only seven years old. He was abandoned by his father, got involved with gangs, and was living an awfully rough life when he finally surrendered his life to Christ. He is now passionate about serving the Lord and hopes to attend a Y.W.A.M. Discipleship Training School soon! His love for the Lord and wonderful sense of humor were such a blessing to us!
Our team did a clown skit about sharing joy with others. The kids loved the clowns!
After the skit, Abi and Felipe explained its message and we shared some Spanish Bible verses about joy.
Then, Dan and Belle shared a "Happy Heart" skit that portrayed the importance of giving our hearts to the Lord. We tied this skit in with Bible verses, as well.
It was so hard to say goodbye at the end of the evening, having no idea where these kids will end up. Before we left, though, Senora S. told us that her dream is to one day own an orphanage where the kids can stay full-time, and she won't have to send them home at night. Her face just lit up as she shared her dream with us. Please join us in praying for this soup kitchen and all who enter there, that it may be a safe haven where many come to know and love our Lord!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ensenada 2009: Part 2

The Y.W.A.M. base in Ensenada is a renovated hotel, with dorm-style housing for short-termers and apartments for long-term missionaries and students. Besides housing Mission Adventure students, the base houses a School of Worship, where musicians from around the world come to learn about biblical worship and to sharpen their musical skills. The housing building on the base is shaped somewhat like a "U," with a tall, sturdy fence closing off its open side. The "courtyard formed by the four walls is used for dining and recreation (Notice the playground in the picture below, used for children of staff and students.). Through an opening in the bottom floor, shown on the first picture below, one can enter a second courtyard, which includes two more buildings, used for worship sessions and resource storage. Our first assignments on base were signing in, filling out name tags, and receiving our room assignments (In the above picture, we are waiting in line to get name tags.). I was assigned to a room in one corner of the third floor, along with adult leader, Sonja, and four other high school girls. We had five bunk beds in our room, as well as a bathroom, a vanity with an extra sink, and some cupboards. Since the base is right across the road from the beach, our window looked out over the ocean and we fell asleep to the crashing of the waves each night. It was amazing!
The next few pictures are of the view from Dan's room. Our room was one floor up from his, so we got just a bit more of an ocean view, but still got to enjoy the skate park stunts.
We saw lots and lots of ships passing by each day. Everything from cargo ships to cruise ships!
Next to the skate park was this volleyball court. It was very busy all ten days, with both students and staff playing games every spare minute!
Our meal times and free times were often spent talking at these picnic tables in the courtyard.
Soon after we arrived, we started heading across the road to the beach. I am on the far right in the above picture.
Chow time! Here we are in the dinner line! The guy on the far right was Carl, a British singer/guitar player studying at the School of Worship. He had a very cool accent!
We decided our name tags looked too bland, so we dressed them up a bit with permanent marker designs. I am on the left-hand side, slipping my name tag over my head. We wore those tags every day, all day long for the duration of our time in Ensenada, but I still didn't learn everyone's name. The guy on the right in this picture is a rapper from Holland and another student at the school of worship. I can't remember his first name right now, but I got to hear his music. I don't normally like rap, but his song was incredible and very worshipful.
Every night, all eighteen members of our team met in the game room to share news from the day, discuss the next day's plans, and to pray together. Everyone got to share the best thing that happened in his/her day and the worst thing. It was a great time to regroup, hear each other's hearts, and support our fellow team members.
One day, during free time, some friends and I went down to the beach to collect seashells. In the above picture, I'm bending down, probably to pick up a sand dollar. We found dozens of delicate sand dollars, some coral, and lots of beautiful shells of all shapes and sizes.
Here's a view of the base from the water's edge.
Karl and Kayley, two members of our team, stand by the Y.W.A.M. San Diego/Baja sign.
This picture gives a great view of the courtyard during a drama practice. Our first three days in Ensenada were spent training for our outreaches. We went to devotional and worship sessions in the mornings and evenings. Our devotional speaker, Mark Peacock, was from Birmingham, Alabama. He gave some very thought-provoking lessons on the importance of making godly choices while we are young, because the choices we make now will affect the rest of our lives. He also talked about reacting to the needs we see around us and serving to meet those needs. During the afternoons on those training days, fifteen out of the eighteen members of our team learned dramas set to music. The seven dramas they learned served to be valuable ministry tools that stretched across the language barrier to share the hope of Christ with the Mexican people.
There are several families living on base, and we often got to play with their little ones during free times on the training days. This little girl had lots of fun getting piggyback rides from Kayley!
One night we got to have worship in the courtyard. It was amazing to hear the ocean waves, feel the soft breeze on our faces, and praise the Lord in English and Spanish. The three worship leaders, Jesse, Kaitlyn, and Axel, are amazing musicians and passionate about worshipping our God. Jesse and Axel are both Mexicans and have strong Spanish accents. In fact, Axel claims to have learned English by watching Star Wars movies!
Here are more drama practice pictures, both depicting the battle going on for human souls by God and Satan.
While the rest of our team learned these dramas, Sonja, J.D., and I attended V.B.S. training sessions, in which we familiarized ourselves with the Y.W.A.M. V.B.S. resource bins and learned crafts, games, songs, and other helpful tools for working with children in Mexico.
On the last training day on base, each student got to choose between four seminars: Beginning Spanish Phrases, Intermediate Spanish Phrases, Leading Someone to Christ, and Worship in Spanish. Some friends and I went to Intermediate Spanish Phrases, taught by translator Felipe.
Two friends of mine, Nikkilee and Abi, on the left in the above picture, went to Worship in Spanish, and then performed one of the songs they learned at the evening worship session. I love this song, and I'm learning to play it on the guitar now that I'm home.
Every morning, several members of our team, and some from a team from Montana, jogged on the beach to kick-start their days. Sometimes they even saw dolphins!
Almost every day we saw people horseback riding on the beach. So cool!
I'm off to my grandparents' for the week, so I probably won't be posting for a while, but when I get back, I'll share all about our outreach days, which were by far the highlights of our trip!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ensenada 2009: Part 1

Here it is: the first of my promised posts with pictures from my trip to Ensenada, Mexico! I only took a few pictures myself, but thanks to one of our dear adult leaders (You rock, Dan!), I have a CD with nearly 400 pictures to share! (Don't worry, I won't post all of them ;-) I've decided to blog just a day or two of the trip at a time, so I won't overwhelm you with one insanely long post. This post will cover our trip from the time we left my hometown on June 14th to the time we arrived at the Y.W.A.M. (Youth With A Mission) base in Ensenada on June 15th. All of the pictures below were taken on the 15th.
On Sunday, June 14th, after our morning church service, all eighteen members of our team (four adult leaders and fourteen high school students) enjoyed a quick pizza lunch with our families, took care of last minute details (like tying matching red ribbons on all of our bags--how cute!), and prayed together for health, safety, team unity, growth opportunities, and effective ministry. Then it was time to say goodbye. There were many tears and lots of hugs all around! Before we knew it, all our luggage had been loaded onto the trailer and we were off in three minivans, heading to Minneapolis!
After four and a half hours of driving, we arrived at a church in the Cities (which we hooked up with through some college friends of our youth pastor, Jerry) and ate dinner with their youth group. We also played Dodgeball and Playdoughnary (like Pictionary, only with Playdough instead of pencil and paper), and sang worship songs with them. Then our team shared testimonies and their youth pastor prayed for us.
When we left that church, we were driven to a church member's house, where there were snacks, showers, and warm, cozy beds awaiting us. We were so grateful to this family for giving up their home for the night! We went to bed at 11:00, because we knew it would be an early morning. We woke up at 3:30 (Yes, that's a.m.!) to a fabulous breakfast our hosts had prepared, and left at 4:30 to head to the airport. Our flight left at 6:30 and arrived in Denver mid-morning. By then, we had been up so long it felt like lunchtime. So, we had a bite to eat, rode on the Tram, and sat down to rest and wait for our next flight. Here's where the pictures begin.
Jerry, our fearless leader, takes a well-deserved rest. He worked hard to take care of our team!
Just hanging out at the gate.
Our flight from Denver to San Diego landed at around 12:30 (if my memory serves me right--that's a big if!)
The guys on the team got all our bags from baggage claim (That's where the red ribbons came in handy!) and we had a few minutes to wait for our ride to Ensenada.
Here, my room leader, Sonja, and my friend, J.D., guard the bags while some of us girls take a much-needed bathroom break. There is a price to pay for staying hydrated while traveling ;-)!
Does everyone have their bags? Okay! Here we go!
Someone looks excited! Above is my dear friend, Belle.
Once everyone had found their luggage, two YWAMmers (That's code for Y.W.A.M. staff members ;-), named Josh and Sarah, picked us up from the San Diego airport in two fifteen-passenger vans. As we drove through the streets of San Diego, I spotted the ocean for the first time ever! There were so many ships to see, as well! I was very excited. Since it was now after one o'clock, we were all ready for supper, and the YWAMmers took us to In-N-Out, a burger chain that definitely does not exist in MN. The food was amazing, and all of the cups and baskets have Bible verse references on them. Very cool!
Here we are at the In-N-Out being entertained by Will (the black-haired guy in the white shirt), one of the Ensenada staffers. He was definitely a "life-of-the-party" kind of guy, not to mention an incredible artist (specializing in permanent marker tattoos :-). And for the record, no, I didn't get one.) Will grew up a Buddhist, and has an amazing testimony of how the Lord changed his life.
After our incredible, calorie-packed lunch, we were taken to the Y.W.A.M. San Diego base, where we hung out on the amazingly squooshy grass, waiting for more staff members to arrive. While there, we met another missions team from Montana, which we had the privilege of working with in Ensenada.
Then we crossed the border into the crazy, colorful country of Mexico, where turn signals are seen as over-rated, and speed limits are just suggestions. Add to that two college-aged drivers racing each other on curvy roads along the ocean and what do you get? Lots of very carsick Minnesotans praying that solid ground would find us soon! After about an hour and a half, we were starting to wonder why fifteen-passenger vans aren't stocked with barf bags.
Somewhere between Tijuana and Ensenada, Josh pointed out this statue of Jesus on the top of a hill across the road from the ocean.
They are kind of hard to see in this picture, but someone told us all those white rings on the water are fishing nets. I don't know if that's true or not, but it made for a good story.
Finally, we arrived at the base...and that's where I'll leave off for tonight. Tune in next time for more rambling on my wild adventures in Mexico. Thanks for reading!