Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Page!!!

This year my "little" sister turned 31!! I can NOT believe she is in her 30's and I am even older! Boo!! We had such a fun birthday celebration though!! Mom took us to The Melting Pot!! I have always heard how awesome this place was- and it is!! Me, Page, Mom, Karyn and Delilah enjoyed Wisconsin Cheese Dip and Spinach Cheese Dip!! It was delicious!! But the most amazing part was dessert!! We got two (of course)... S'Mores Chocolate Dip and Turtle Chocolate Dip!! We just laughed and talked and ate SO much!! :) I am definitely going to The Melting Pot for my birthday celebration too!! ;)

I am so blessed to have you as my sister!! You are always so fun and encouraging! You have always been there for me!! I know you would do anything for me and I am thankful for everything you do!! My hope and prayer is that with each year that passes we grow closer and closer!! You are the BEST!! I love you!

The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. Psalm 145:13

Sunday, June 26, 2011

9 Years Ago...

I faced the darkest day of my life! Will had open heart surgery on June 26, 2002 when he was only 5 months old!! We had so many people praying for him and for us that we could feel the presence of God and his amazing peace!! Angels guarded Will during his heart surgery and he came through great! He was adorable, even in his little hospital gown! I'll never in my life forget rocking my child to sleep and placing him in a crib they would take to surgery and not knowing if I would get to see him again!! A couple of days later, though, we took home a different child! He was such a brave heart!! (Mommy not so much)

Of course I scrapbooked all of this in Will's Baby Book!! I thought I would share those!! (don't forget this is before digital camera's and laptops)!!

Us the day before we had to be in the hospital!!

Will a few weeks after his surgery!!

"Where there is great love, there are always miracles"

I thank God everyday for the gift of Will!! I am so grateful to have had these nine years to spend with Will!! He is THE BEST boy in the world!! I love him so much!!

"The LORD has done great things for us, whereof we are glad." ~Psalm 126:3

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bolivia Part II: Day One

After getting in bed around 4 am, we had the chance to finally get some least until 9:30. We woke up and got our first taste of Bolivian winter, which translates into perfect weather. After two solid days of airport fast food, we got the chance to sit down and eat a real breakfast. I don't know if it was because we were still jet-lagged (despite only moving into the Eastern time zone, we had only slept a total of seven hours out of 48!) or because we had been deprived of real food, but I do believe that was one of the best breakfasts I have ever had.

After this we headed off to the mission to start our, uh, mission. When we had been driving from the airport earlier that morning at 3 am, we saw a billboard for Roman Jeans that was, truly, one of the cheesiest things I had ever seen. It was this dude with three denim-clad women crowding around him. It was ultra-Latin and I pointed out with excitement that we were officially in South America at that point. Our guide, Kattya, then told us innocently that the male model who was on the billboard was named Diego and he worked for Amistad. We all laughed that over-tired-where-everything-is-ultra-funny laugh and looked forward to meeting him. When we arrived at the Amistad, we found out it was true...and he was a total rock n' roller. He was completely humble and was more than willing to joke about being the Roman Jeans guy. (At this point I need to point out, ladies, that he is still not a valid reason for you to want to head off to Bolivia.)

We were shown around and one of Silena's favorite spots was Ms. Rosie's room. It was called the "Good Shepherd" and it was for kindergarten aged children to learn about the liturgy of the church. (Remember, we're in a Catholic country) Whatever your thoughts on high liturgy are, it was very cool. The kids really learned about the church calendar and were taught about the meaning of communion, even being allowed to set up the sacrament table made just for them.

One of the coolest parts was Ms. Rosie's table of Bibles. She had Bibles in an assortment of languages so the children could understand the reality that Jesus Christ came for all people, not just Bolivians. It was inspiring to see this lady instilling such truth in these young kids.

After a good lunch, we returned to the Saint Francis house to do some painting. We did some work, but we were just starting to realize that this mission trip was not turning out like we thought it would. It was becoming quickly apparent that Bolivia was doing much more for us than we were for it. The people we met were so genuine and full of life and love that we were already becoming convicted and began to feel great anticipation of what the Lord would do with the rest of the week in this amazing place.
Jasmine, Kendal, Mike, and Dedrick painting.

Silena and Ms. Cookie.

Bandanna of the day: Green.

Silena and our guide, Kattya. (One of our new favorite people.)

The team after a day of work. (Sort of)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bolivia, Part I: Getting There

When our group left Birmingham on Sunday at 12:30 we were feeling a mixture of excitement and nerves. For the most part, however, we had great confidence about the week ahead. We were going to an orphanage in Cochabamba, Bolivia called the Amistad Mission to help out in the name of Jesus. We also had Elizabeth Elliott (not that one) with us who majored in Spanish in college and had spent a great deal of time in Latin America doing mission work. (That's the red head in the middle of the picture.) With all of that going for us, what could go wrong?

The flight to Miami was very routine and when we landed we even got to walk down the set of stairs onto the tarmac just like in a movie. I think we were all a little distracted just thinking about the seven hour layover we had in this tropical city. There were a lot of jokes about heading to South Beach and even staying for a while. There wasn't a great deal of talk about the mission ahead. It's funny how the Enemy can lull you into submission. Sometimes, however, he's not so subtle. We found this out later that evening.

Our flight with Aero Sur (we had never heard of it either) was scheduled to take off at 11:00 pm. We actually made a few friends with the people who were going to be on the flight as we waited in line to check in that afternoon and as we spent the evening waiting in the terminal for our flight. By 11 we were all boarded and hoping to get at least a little bit of sleep on the 6 hour flight into Santa Cruz, Bolivia. This was a hope that was to be unrealized, however.

About 15 minutes into our flight the captain's voice came on the cabin speakers and the only words I could understand from his Spanish were "problemo" and "Miami." We did leave about 5 minutes late so I just assumed he was apologizing for us leaving a little late. When I looked down our row and saw Elizabeth's face, however, I knew there must have been more. She had been asleep when he started his message and now she was sitting straight up with absolutely no color in her face. We asked what he said and she told us that there was a problem with the plane and we were going to have to return to Miami.

Immediately following this, as if on cue in the unfolding disaster movie, we hit some pretty intense turbulence as we were beginning to descend. The plane was mostly full of Bolivians and people from other South American countries so there was a dramatic response from those on board. I was not very disturbed until the flight attendants began looking out the windows of the emergency exits at the wings. They also began crawling over passengers to look out the windows, even using flashlights. They were completely ignoring the various questions coming from the increasingly nervous passengers, "que problemo?" Even the copilot came back to look and at one point they even had one of the passengers inspecting the still mysterious problem.

I don't know how many of you have ever been at a point where you had to ask God to spare your life but I, and many other people on board that night, were. All over the plane, as we were coming in for a landing, people were muttering prayers. One of the teachers that went with our group and I even made the comment that "if" we got out of this alive we were going to rent a van and drive back to Birmingham. (This was said where no one else could hear, because we had six very frightened students with us.)

To make a long story a little shorter, we did land safely in Miami and spent the next four hours waiting to see if they could repair the problem (which was not as big a deal as we thought). During that time we got to be removed from the situation enough to discuss the fact that we have an Enemy who wants to frighten and distract us, but we serve a God who is bigger and who holds us in his hands, and He had proven to be faithful to us in a very real and tangible way. You see, God used this seemingly terrible beginning of our trip to focus our attention on Him.

The problem with the plane could not be repaired and we were sent to a hotel to get a few hours of sleep, not arriving until 5 am! We did not leave Miami until 6:00 Monday night and by that time we wanted to be in Bolivia more than anywhere else on earth. Just like the Israelites who complained about manna in the desert and got quail until it was coming out of their noses, God gave us Miami until it was coming out of our noses. There were no more jokes about hanging out at South Beach and taking it easy, we were ready to get to Cochabamba and the Amistad Mission.
We didn't arrive until about 3:30 in the morning and Kattya (our main guide, standing next to Silena in the black coat) and Jose Luis (our rock n' roll bus driver standing on the end next to me) were waiting for us. When we got to La Morada, the house we stayed in, we also met Donya Celia (the lady that cooked for us all week, standing in the front center with the black scarf on). Silena and I fell into bed (below) completely exhausted, but happy to finally be in Bolivia. After this we had no idea what the week would have in store...