Postcards from Camichines Part V: Trust Exercises

I don’t know if you’ve ever flown Aero Mexico before, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you absolutely have to.

We arrived at the airport with very little time to spare, waited in line for about an hour, and at last got our boarding passes. I needed three. Only one of mine printed. And my ticket was changed to stand by.

Waiting in line in Guadalajara

I looked to the man at the desk, trying not to look panicked.

“It’s fine,” he told me, crossing out the STB with a Sharpie. “You will get your seat assigned at the gate.”

I nodded lamely and turned to rush through security.

Our team arrived at the gate to find they were holding the plane for us… since the ten of us made up nearly a third of the flight. We were handing over our passes one by one. When the woman at the counter got to me she stopped me.

“You’re standby. You have to wait. We have a flight at 10, one at 4:30 and another at 8:00 tonight.”

I looked wide-eyed between her and our trip leader, a faint roaring in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to be stuck in a Mexican airport alone! Good grief, my Spanish is terrible and I didn’t know what I would do by myself in a foreign country.

The leader explained to her that the printer at the check-out counter had broken and that my ticket wasn’t supposed to have been changed. He told me that he and I would switch if we had to. I nodded, trying to blink back tears. (I cry. It’s annoying and happens at the drop of a hat due to any strong emotion such as HOLY-CRAP-I-COULD-GET-LEFT-HERE-IN-A-MEXICAN-AIRPORT scared. Not thrilled  by it, but it’s what I do.)

With a minute to spare before take-off, I was given a seat on a plane the size of a test tube in front of and beside some of our team members.

We flew from Guadalajara to Monterrey and found we had to go through security again. This time, the woman checking our boarding passes did not speak English. She was very disgruntled that my pass was for Monterrey and no further. I showed her the bar code for my luggage was labeled for Grand Rapids, but wasn’t sure how to explain that I needed other passes.

After a rather tragic attempt of a few of us to mime this, she begrudgingly motioned for me to follow her to who-knows-where. I looked to the rest of the team, disapointed that this was not going to be simple and once again frightened.

I followed the security woman silently through strange hallways. I tried once more not to cry. The lump in my throat bulged as I realized that this walk was awkward, but I could barely make small talk with her if I tried. Not unless we wanted to talk about her favorite color or the time or how much something costs or where the bathroom was. I felt so helpless and confused. Desperate, even. Not to mention, I really had to pee.

Saying goodbye to Mexico

I looked to the woman in her stiff grey suit and her stern expression as she looked straight ahead of us. She was probably in no mood to take a bathroom stop on our way to wherever.

We emerged at the front of the Monterrey airport. She motioned for me to stay put in the check in line as she brought my one and only boarding pass up to the man working there. They talked back-and-fort in rapidly whirring Spanish of which I only got snippets.

I looked up at the giant Delta logo mounted to the marble wall behind the desk.

God, just get me back in that terminal and home. Get me out of this country, I pleaded.

Do you trust me? The words felt like a small echo in my chest. I had felt them there all week.

I am in no mood to play trust exercises, God, I just want to get back to the team and home!

I took deep breaths, trying not to sob in front of the line of spring-breakers behind me.

This is what travelling alone would be like, I realized. I want to travel, I have to get used to this. I began to take inventory of myself.

I am okay. Things are getting worked out, I will be with everyone again shortly. I have plenty of time to get to the gate and visit a bathroom before I would have to board. Everything was fine. Not what I would have planned, but fine.

I looked upward and nodded. Alright, I trust you.

The security woman came to where I was in line. Handing me my boarding pass, she told me in heavily accented English, “You wait. He help.”

“Gracias.” I nodded, feeling relieved.

My first sight of snow upon returning
to Michigan

Upon getting to the check-in counter, I was able to get the rest of my boarding passes and was even upgraded to an emergency exit row for my trouble.

I was fine. I was safe. I was headed home.

It struck me how simple the morning was, but how quick I was to jump to the worst possible scenario. I am becoming more and more aware of how badly I am at taking things in stride. God has taken care of me thus far and he has promised to continue to do so.

I arrived back in Grand Rapids without any trouble and have begun adjusting back to life at home and at work.

My week in Mexico was a beautiful experience that I will forever cherish. God was at work and it was wonderful to experience that with his people in his creation.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. Your intercession on our behalf was so necessary and I know I speak for the rest of the team when I say thank you.

Here’s to the next adventure,
                 –Lex

Postcards from Camichines Part IV: The Work of Beautiful Hands

It’s been so fun working in the school throughout our workday. On Tuesday, I got to work with a reading group of third grade boys. So much fun! Yesterday, I taught a writing lesson for the fifth and sixth grade kids. We learned about dialogue and action tags vs. dialogue tags. It was so fun and their energy was contagious. Their excitement for learning and for life and for each other has made this week a blast.

Learning sign language!

One of our awesome team members has a gift for sign language. She has translated for a few years in our worship services and has been down here teaching the kids some signs to go with some worship songs. They have been so excited, asking her about additional signs throughout the week.

Today, those of us working in the courtyard were called into the classroom during their music time. They wanted to show us what they had been working on all week.

They sang ‘Our God is an Awesome God’ and signed along with it.

I began crying halfway through. This was it. This was why we were here. This is why Ranchito con Esperanza exists. Seeing those kids so excited to sing and sign–showing us what they had been learning and worshiping at the same time–it was so beautiful.

These kids have been rescued and are being raised in this home that they may one day go out and be game changers in the name of Jesus Christ. That is a powerful vision.

Me attempting to get some sun in the middle of the corn pile.

Our team has been discussing how easy it can be to get caught up in the mentality of our tasks or discouraged by the monster pile of corn. (The new monster pile of corn, mind you. This one we have to go through kernel by kernel.) It’s these kind of moments that give a glimpse of what it’s all for.

Hebrews 11 talks about the great men and women of the Old Testament who put their faith in God, looking forward to the coming of Christ and never getting to taste that vision in their time. Our team is down here for a week. Such a small blip in the operations of this place and in the lives of these kids.

These barrels of corn should make a years worth of tortillas.
(The best tortillas ever, at that!)

But this work needs to be done. Even what we’re doing with the corn. By husking and sifting and sorting, we are helping them prepare and store the corn that will make tortillas for the next year. In very small, and seemingly insignificant ways, we are laying just a stone to help build the reality of the vision that has been cast for this ministry. But hopefully God will allow our stone to be build upon further.

Seeing these kids sing to Jesus, both with mouth and hands was a wonderful picture of what we want to help Ranchito con Esperanza strive for. We want to see this ministry build these kids up in faith so that they may in turn build up communities for Jesus in the future.

This week has been such a beautiful glimpse of the father. My heart is full. These children, this team, and this beautiful place are all more than I could have ever asked for. I am so grateful for the impact these people have made on my heart and am excited to see what God shall do with this place in the coming months and years.

In His name,
         –Lex

Postcards from Camichines Part III: Flexibility

Plans are nice. I really like plans and to-do lists and knowing what’s up before it happens.

That’s not how things work down here.
So these posts are not going to be live. The wireless is not as plentiful here as previously described. Which is actually become one of my favorite parts of the week so far–being unplugged and off the grid. Everyone on our team is focused on our tasks and each other and our time with God rather than what may or may not be going on at home. (Although there are three of us down here that have missed the Bachelor finale and I’m dying to know if Juan Pabs chose Crazy or Clueless to be his awfully wedded wife!)
Actually, a lot of things have not been a previously expected.
Turns out, there is a dress code down here which has limited my limited wardrobe significantly. Also, even though there is a lot of work to be done here, it is not plentiful as I expected.
So we’ve all had to learned to adjust. 
And it is so good! Seriously, the slower pace, the lack of distraction over my wardrobe–I am learning a ton through this week and we’re barely at the half-way point.
Taking a break for drinks and shade
I have written previously about my struggle with clothing and significance. This week has just revealed to me more how much stock I put into that still. There have been few moments in which I have felt ‘lovely’ or smelled like something resembling that this week as we work in the heat and dust and chaff. I showered last night only to discover dust still in my ears and the fact that I forgot q-tips.

This grimy shirt and these sweaty jeans and this unexpected down-time are teaching me a lot about my brokenness and the way I have been living my life as of late. These things are all manifestations of my desire for more. My desire to serve myself.
Down here, I am learning not to care what I look like because honestly, it has not changed this experience at all. In fact, I can tell you that I’ve probably had a better time without the distraction of ‘being cute’. I’m more useful in these re-worn clothes then I would have been in the running shorts and tank-tops I had planned to wear. I have been able to dive into any messy task–hefting bricks, sifting corn, working in dust and not being concerned for the safety of my skin or the state of my clothing. I just am. It’s nice. Freeing, actually.
As far as the work goes, I came down here geared up for non-stop work all week long. In reality, it’s been a lot of hurry up and wait. Not because there isn’t work to be done, but because there are somethings here that are more important. When a task is finished, there may not be supplies for the next one yet, or someone else must complete their task before we can start the next thing. 
There is also more of an emphasis on relationships rather than getting things done a quickly as possibly. Earlier, the guys went to pick up some equipment from a man in the village. The director of the home began talking with a man from the village that was loaning said equipment. Before the guys knew it, the director left to buy a bottle of Pepsi for their small little group to enjoy as they chatted.

I finished with a task this morning and was approached by a couple of the little guys to read a book. We spent yesterday afternoon playing with the kids on the swing-set rather than continuing with the corn (so much corn!!!)

Story-time with a couple new buddies
It’s weird. And beautiful. Everything has been getting done quickly, but we have also been given time to enjoy one another and relax. I’ve been exhausted at the end of the day, but never stressed. I feel really healthy down here and that’s been nice.
I need to be more flexible and this week has been a wonderful exercise in that. I’ve been thinking of ways to incorporate some of this feeling into my regular life. If any of you have been able to do this, please let me know. I am loving this simplicity!

God has been so good and we’ve barely reached that half-way mark. I am loving this place. Also, tomorrow I’m teaching a writing class–super pumped for this!

xo,
          –Lex

Postcards from Camichines Part II: The Week’s Plumb Line

So what are we doing here?

I am not asking the existential question I was yesterday. I am actually trying to answer this question.

I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me in the last couple weeks, “so what are you going to be doing down there?” The problem lies in that the answer was, “I don’t really know. A little construction. Working with kids. Something about corn… yeah…”

Alright, so here’s the biz:

Made some AWESOME orange juice after writing this post on the rooftop.
Seriously, this is the best way to start the morning.


There are eleven of us down here in a village outside Guadalajara. We are working at an orphanage and plan to complete whatever tasks they can throw at us. Right now, there is a monster pile of corn to be husked, a chicken coop in need of constructing and a school roof top that will eventually be transformed in to a second story. It seems like a lot and this is our first workday. 


It’s hard to call this place an orphanage, just because it seems so much like a home. One with a rather large family and a school on site, but seriously, a home. There are around fifteen kids here, each so precious and energetic. They are surrounded by a staff that loves them and is really looking out for each of the children’s interests. My first twenty-four hours here have been a huge blessing already.

Part of the corn action. After hand-picking off the kernels for
a while, they brought in a machine to do it much faster. This
is some of the team sifting that corn. SOOO much corn!


Yesterday, we went in to Guadalajara for church and I was given a beautiful picture of what is going on here.

We sat in the back of the sanctuary. The home director, his wife, the children, the interns, the teachers, and our team filled three rows. I spent most of the service lost, holding white knuckled to the bi-lingual bible I had been handed for understanding.

In front of me, the home director sat beside a chair holding two of the younger guys. The one closest two him has only been at the home a few weeks and–like most of the kids–has had a rough background, despite being only a toddler.

I found myself moved to tears in the middle of the service as this little guy nuzzled into his new father’s side. The director of the home smiled down, embracing the child close. 

This little guy is the one who touched my
heart that morning in church. Gah! those
eyes!


This simple picture was so beautiful to me that even thinking about it makes me cry writing this–I’m a crier. I’ll admit it. This little boy arrived here under dire circumstances and now gets to be loved and cherished and held close by a father. 

This beautiful picture of being adopted–taken in and accepted–has captured the purpose of what I think this week will hold. We are not lost. We will never be lost again. We are like this little child–a little beat-up, broken, not quite getting the language or righteousness, but God pulls us close to his side and welcomes us into his home to be loved and to be guided by him.

This is the tone with which this week has been set. I am so excited to see what is next. It was wonderful getting to know the kids a little bit last night as we walked around the village together and played with them in the plaza.

More tomorrow!

xo,
         –Lex

Postcards from Camichines Part I: Preparing

I am excited to finally share my postcards I wrote over my trip to Camichines. Unlike previously believed, I did not have access to internet while I was down there, so I wasn’t able to post these during my time down there. To be honest, that was probably one of the best things for me–being unplugged. For the rest of the week, I will be posting my thoughts and experiences of the trip. Thank you all for your prayers and support. Enjoy!

It wasn’t until I was being driven to the airport that I was struck with the thought:

What am I doing?

Really.

After preparing for weeks that God would open the doors to make this adventure happen. After my wonderful family members gave support money. After packing and preparation. That’s when the thought came.

What am I doing?

This is going to be hard work and long days and unfamiliar surroundings. Am I ready for this? Do I have what it takes?

Waiting to take off for Guadalajara

Sitting on the flight to Guadalajara, these doubts continued to swim around my travel-addled brain.

What was I doing? Where was I going? Was I even supposed to be here?

It struck me this morning, looking out over the beautiful rural village of Camichines, surrounded by obnoxious roosters and misty mountains. These thoughts have filled my days. Not about coming to Mexico, but about my life.

What am I doing? Where am I going? Do I have what it takes?

This mantra chorus of doubt has been the song my heart has been singing for so long.

Reading Jeremiah 2 this morning, I was humbled by the love God expresses through the scolding of his people. The desire for them to turn back to him, to leave behind the other gods they have been chasing after.

My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(Z)”> me,

    the spring of living water,<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AA)”>
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

My cistern is dry. I am so thirsty, but I have nothing but doubt to draw from.

I have ignored what my father has given me to drink. I have sinned in my self-obsessed search for a future and I have broken my father’s heart.

Sitting here, observing the peace and cacophony of this little rural village, God is inviting me to sing a new song to him. One of trust and confidence in him.

I am on this team for a reason. He has equipped each of us for this work. He desires to me with us here.

Praise the Lord with the harp;<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”>
    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”>
 Sing to him a new song;<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”>
    play skillfully, and shout for joy.<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”>
 For the word of the Lord is right<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> and true;<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(F)”>
    he is faithful<span class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(G)”> in all he does.

The rooftop view at sunrise.

So the new song to replace the song in my heart? I am so deeply loved. The future is not mine to worry about. God has already prepared it for me. In him I strive to trust.

My song for this week? I have nothing to offer but what God has given me. I am here for a small blip. I only a small part of this team. I will give what I have to give and the rest is up to God.

We’ll see what happens next!

xo,
            –Lex

I’m Running Away to Mexico!

Remember when I said I was hoping to get a shot at international travel this year? And then later when I said that some cool opportunities where in the works?

Whelp, the title is kind of a major spoiler.

Regardless, I’m running away to Mexico!!!!!

These past few months have been filled with sulking and applying for jobs and worrying about the future and trying to get my life organized and me me me blah blah blah BLEH!

It becomes suffocating, being self-obsessed. It’s boring and unhealthy. So when the opportunity to go on a short-term missions trip came up, I thought it might be a good way to shake up the MeMeMe in my life to become a little bit more HimHimHim.

I will be spending the first part of March at a self-contained orphanage outside of Guadalajara. (Read more at this awesome blog!) There is a small team of us going down to provide for some physical needs such as building a chicken coop and helping with cleaning and care of the animals and loving and playing with children. The team will also be adding a second story to the school and helping with corn harvesting.

Prayer for the team as well as for those we will be working with would be appreciated. We’re still raising support for the projects we’ll be working on. Prayer for that would be greatly appreciated. Also prayers for good weather and health and strength for the team would be wonderful. A lot of what we will be doing will be outside and requires a lot of stamina, especially in the hot sun.

We fly out on the 8th of March and will be there for a week. I will be able to blog throughout my time there and hope to provide you all with a daily postcard on what is happening and what I’m learning.

What sorts of adventures are you all up to lately? I’d love to hear!

Until then,

xo,
           –Lex