Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back in the States!

Well Folks, my six week adventure in Spain is over. It has been such a blessing to meet and work with Hector and Lili, as well as Joshua, Gina, Stephanie, and Kelsey.

It has been so neat to watch how God answered our prayers! Specifically, we prayed and asked for workers to help us put on the second performance. We realized after the first camp that we really needed extra help to make the transitions as smooth as possible during the show. It was wonderful to work with Rafa, Sofia, Christina, Kumi, and Lourdes! They had such positive attitudes and were willing to help in whatever way we needed; it would not have been possible to put on the show without them. The second show went very smoothly, the kids did a great job, and the parents loved it!








 In this last picture, we have from left to right, starting with the back row: Rafa, Joshua, Kumi. In the Middle Row: Lili, Dani M., Dani R., Kelsey, Stephanie, A friend of Kumi's, Myself. In the front row: Marcos and Hector. The other photos are of the dress rehearsal. The girl in the first photo in the long pink dress is Milena; she played Fontine. In the third photo we have Dani R. sitting in the chair, playing Jean Valjean. The cute little girl with rollers is Daniela; she played Madam Thenardier. You can also see the chorus in the background getting ready to dance and sing a chorus of "Master of the House."

Over the next few days, I'll be adding more photos and telling more of my adventures in Spain. Thank you all so much for supporting me while I was there! Please continue to pray for Hector and Lili's ministry. They are just now at a place where they are ready to start a discussion group with two families about the bible and what it has to say about the issues Spain is facing today. Pray for wisdom as well as rest over these two very hard workers!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Our first performance, Toledo, Nestor, and an Impromptu Solo

First, please forgive me for taking so long to update this blog! It's been a very full couple of weeks.

At the end of each camp, the campers put on a show for their parents, showing off all they have learned. The kids were very excited, but many things kept coming up, and we were having a hard time finding time to stage the kids for the show. When the Thursday performance finally arrived, everything that could go wrong did. Our Jean Valjean was very ill, so we ended up just improvising and performing all the dances and songs from the show without any spoken dialogue. Even though we started the show a half hour late, the parents and kids still loved it. All of the kids did a wonderful job, even in the chaos of figuring out what to do.

Our next camp performance is this Thursday. Pray that the kids really enjoy the process of learning the show and putting it on, pray for patience for the team and for extra hands to help, especially now that Gina, one of the team members, headed home to start the new school year with her first graders this morning.

It was such a wonderful opportunity to get to visit Toledo last weekend with Gina and Stephanie. We ate marzipan, visited a beautiful Cathedral, and just had a really wonderful time relaxing and getting to know each other better. It was really cool to learn a little of the history of Toledo and see how that history is really reflected in the Architecture. Jews, Muslims, and Christians have all had a hand in shaping these buildings. (Hence the phrase "Holy Toledo!")

The first night we were there, it was getting late, so Stephanie and I started back toward our hotel. Gina wanted to scope out the area, so she kept on walking. As she was walking, she noticed there were a lot of people out on the streets. Out of curiosity, she decided to keep walking the same direction, and then she heard the music. Gina had stumbled upon a city funded music and lights show. On three important historical sites, they projected images describing the history of Toledo through music and picture. Each video was ten minutes long, and the walk to the next video only took about 10 minutes (if you knew where you were going...) Every thirty minutes between 10:00-1:00 they would play the videos. The cool part was that each video not only projected onto the building, but actually used the building in the video. There would be moments were it would build up the building, only to tear it down again. It was a very unique way of telling Toledo's history and it was very cool. Gina came back and told Stephanie and me about it, so the next evening we went and saw each show. 

Nestor is a painter/pastor in Madrid. He is also the guy who cooks lunch for us every afternoon so we can have a hot meal at the end of the camp day. (Culturally, hot lunches are important in Spain. Even the kids who stay for lunch often bring meals which need to be heated up in the Microwave). It's such a blessing to not have to worry about bringing a lunch, and it gives the team a little bit of time to talk about the day and plan for tomorrow as well. Nestor told us that his work was going to be displayed at a small gallery yesterday evening, so we all went to support him. He paints scenes of Northern Spain, water colors with boats on a lake, but he also paints bright, vibrate scenes of important places in Madrid, including Plaza Mayor. Hector read poetry, Lilli danced, and at the end Lilli asked if I wanted to sing a song. I said that if she needed me to, I could sing L.O.V.E, since she had the music and I happened to know that one. So she and I sang it together. When we finished, my wonderful new team mates began chanting "Otra, Otra!" (Another, Another!). So on a whim, and because the kids have been practicing it all week, I got up and sang I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables. It was very random but a lot of fun.

After this week, camp will be over! It's been such a growing experience being here, learning more Spanish and trying so many new foods and meeting so many new people. I'm very glad I came, but I'm also looking forward to being home, sharing about everything I've learned and trying my hand at some cooking. After camp ends, I hope to travel to Barcelona for the weekend, and then head back home.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support! I know that God has answered them by helping me through bouts of homesickness, by working in the team to help us when parents are waiting and we know we have to dramatically change our plans, and especially in our daily interactions with each other and these kids. Please continue to pray, because it really does make a difference.

P.S. I'm so proud of my brothers!!! Ronnie and Alex will be finishing their summer camp adventures this upcoming week, and I can't wait to hear all of their stories! Justin also had the opportunity to get some training in teaching boys gymnastics, and I am so excited to hear all about that and see where God is taking all of my brothers. Pray for wisdom and stamina for my brothers as well! Thank you!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Adrianna

The past few days at camp have been especially challenging, and yet I can still see God allowing us to see what He's doing in the lives of these kids.

This week, the whole team has been struggling with staying up late and getting up early. It's so cool to see how God brought the right people with diverse backgrounds to help make this camp possible, but at the same time, this is one of the smallest teams Lilli and Hector have ever worked with. Pray for grace for each of us to pick up the slack with joy and wisdom to know when to just let things go.

We have about 22 kids in this camp, and each one is different, with different emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. Adrianna is young, vibrant little girl, struggling with her parents divorce. She can be so sweet, but she has trouble getting along with some of the other alumnos (students). At the beginning of the camp, she didn't really want to participate. Yesterday, however, we ended up having an extended chorus time. After practicing for a while, we took a break from singing and played the piano. When it was Adrianna's turn to play, she was upset because she didn't know what to play or how to play it. Another student, Lydia, began helping to teach her how to play "What makes you beautiful" by One Direction. (Spanish kids are obsessed with One Direction!) It was so cool to see another older student come alongside and help Adrianna! After that, she took her lyrics sheet home, and  when she came back today she asked me if I needed to read her lyrics sheet. It was so awesome to see her get excited and involved!

There are many other students in this camp who have similar stories. Please pray for Adrianna, that this camp would be a time of refreshing for her and that she would see Christ through us. Please pray for all of our students, that God would open up their hearts to see him. Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support, it really makes a difference here!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The past few days have been filled to the brim with many firsts. My first time taking the metro. My first time meeting the other team members. My first cup of Cafe con Leche... I could go home this week and have enough stories to last for quite a while, and the camp hasn't even begun!

 From above Spain's many farms look very much like a patchwork quilt with spiderweb cities spiraling out and connecting the whole piece together. Olives are a very important part of the culture and industry. Also, it's very strange to see a real smoked pig leg hanging from the walls of a bar. They just cut off pieces of it as they need it. Also, the coke here tastes different from the coke we drink in the U.S. It's sweeter, and when I looked at the ingredients it just said sugar.

On Sundays you can go to the Spanish market, where you can buy everything! There are clothes, bags, and whole shelves devoted to nothing but the multiple varieties of olives. In the U.S., we basically have two kinds of olives: black and green. Sometimes, if you go to a Greek restaurant, you'll get something a little more fancy, but otherwise that's pretty much it. Here is Spain, there are so many different kinds of Olives! Spiced ones, weird looking ones with extra long stems, dark green, light green, and all sorts of shades from brownish red to black.

Thus far, I have met most of the team coming from the States: Joshua, Gina, Stephanie, and I'll soon be meeting Kelsey. Joshua is originally from California, but he currently lives in New York where he works producing promotional videos. Gina is originally from New York, but she lives in Hawaii where she teaches special education. Stephanie is originally from Chicago, but she lives in New York where she arranges window displays for fashion companies. It has been such a pleasure to get to know them this past week, and I'm very excited to work with them to minister to these kids!

Gina and Stephanie both arrived on Wednesday of last week. Gina greeted us with shell leis she had brought from Hawaii, and Stephanie brought stories about her 11 day pilgrimage walking over 100 miles of El Camino de Santiago. According to Catholic tradition, the bones of Saint Jame are buried in a cathedral in northern Spain. Pilgrims seeking a blessing from God promise to travel this road, believing that if they fulfill their promise, God will give them what they ask. Many different people from different walks of life travel the road, some for spiritual reasons and others just for the experience.

I'm so excited to learn even more about Spanish culture! =)

Here we go!

Wednesday was the first day of El Campamento Urbana Biling├╝e! Many of our team members stayed up exceptionally late preparing for the day. We all woke up late, but managed to make it to la escuela (the school) just in time for our daily prayer meeting. We had a lot of fun playing get-to-know-you games with the kids, y estamos muy emocionados (we are very excited), though also quite nervous, to jump into our classes tomorrow. 

In the morning we are "casting" the play! We take the morning hour to go through and audition each student. I'm very excited! 

P.s.: I'm sorry you guys I haven't been posting more. Hence forth, my blog posts will probably be mini blogs, giving brief updates/important things to pray for while we are working here. Thank you so much for your prayers! Specifically pray for peace on these kids as they audition, that they would have fun and know that we love each and every one of them! Please ask God to continue to grace us with His love and unity for each other as a team. Thank you God for the amazing experiences thus far!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Desynchronosis: AKA, Jet Lag

According to Wikipedia, Jet Lag is caused when your body gets out of synch with its usual sleeping pattern (Hence the medical term desynchronosis). Symptoms include sleep disturbance, increased difficulty performing cognitive tasks, and sometimes lack of appetite and/or indigestion.

Mostly, it's just not very fun. Yesterday, I wanted very much to help with Hector and Lili's music recital. They really needed the help, but when it came time to leave at 4:00 in the afternoon, I was just done. I thought to myself "All right, I'll sleep today, and tomorrow I'll get up and I'll help," since I knew they had another recital planned for the next day. Today I woke up at 6:00 in the morning, which is early, but I didn't think too much of it. Until 12:00 rolls around and I realize I will be no good to anyone if I don't at least take a nap. So here was my plan: Take a nap, get up around 3:00, eat something and then head out to help work this recital!

I realized too late that there was a flaw with my plan. At home, I usually use my phone as an alarm clock. The problem is that when a phone is in Airplane mode, it doesn't receive any signals telling it what time it is, which means I can't set my alarm. I guess I just sort of assumed I would wake up when I wanted to, even without the alarm. I ended up waking up at 5:30. I ate a little something, and then went back to sleep until 9:00.

So, here's my new plan for tomorrow: I just wont sleep. That should do the trick!

Please pray that I would adjust better to the day and night cycles here in Spain. If you have any suggestions for adapting more quickly, leave a comment. Thank you very much for your continued prayers and support while I'm here! I know God has good plans for these next few weeks, I just hope I'm awake to take it all in. ;)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I'm sitting on the couch in the living room of Hector and Lilli Ramirez. It is very warm out, but the fan is going and the windows are open. It is quiet, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one in the house right now, unless everyone else just happens to be taking an exceptionally long nap, seeing as here it is already 7:00pm. Where is here, you might ask? Here is Madrid, Spain, where I will be spending the next six weeks working with Hector and Lilli at their children's summer arts camp. I am very excited to see what God will do in these next few weeks!

My journey to Madrid began early yesterday morning. I was especially emotional, only barely able to keep from crying at breakfast. I'm very thankful God allowed my Mom, Dad, my oldest brother Justin, and my wonderful boyfriend Scott to come with me to the airport. After I went through security and could no longer see them, there was no stopping the tears. I had been very nervous about this trip all week long because I wasn't sure what Hector looked like or how I would know it was him or even if he would be there to pick me up when I finally landed, nor was I completely sure where I would be staying, or what exactly I would be doing once I finally got here. I knew I was coming to help work at a kids youth camp, probably helping to teach the music, but that was about it. The fact that I was traveling alone only made things 1000 times worse, because I had no idea what I would do if something went wrong and I knew I would just have to figure something out for myself. At least that was my initial thought, before I remembered later that God actually was and is with me and is directing my steps even when I am very anxious.

The flight from Mobile to Charlotte was uneventful. After we landed, I walked from one end of the airport all the way to the other, grabbed a sandwich and some coffee at Starbucks, then sat down to call my dear friend Kaitlin Mosher before I headed out over the Atlantic where my phone would no longer be able to make calls. I was sitting there talking to Kaitlin when this beautiful little 1 year old girl walked up and threw her cup right under my chair! She smiled that cute never-meets-a-stranger smile, when her mom came up and apologized, picking up the cup and carrying that sweet little girl away. She definitely made me smile!

I finished up my conversation and sat for a while. And then a while more. And then Mom suggested I get snacks for the plane, so I did. And then I sat even longer. The longer I sat, the more anxious I became. "God, I just need somebody to talk to!" I thought to myself. Did you know that God provides even things as simple as that? I ended up calling mom, mostly just to let her know the flight was a little delayed, when she asked, "So, you have a moment? Cool, hold on!"

And then I heard Ronnie say hello! I was so excited to get to talk to him and Alex and hear a little bit about their CEF training which they were apart of this week. I was especially blessed when Ronnie said "All us guys are praying for you." No joke, when he said that, I felt a peace finally begin to settle over me in place of my anxiety. It was really cool. Thanks guys for praying, and thank you Ronnie for letting me know!

After what seemed like an eternity but was really only about a 30 minute delay, we were finally able to board the plane. On the plane I found myself sitting next to Juan, a guy from San Diego studying medicine. Juan was returning to Spain for a week to visit family and friends. You know how I asked God for someone to talk to? Not only was I able to talk to my mom and my brothers before boarding, but God provided someone to talk to on the way to Spain, and I was even given the opportunity to share some of my testimony. Though the flight was long, we did make it (and so did our luggage!) And that's when things got interesting...

You see, though I knew that Hector Ramirez was coming to pick me up at the Airport, I didn't know what he looked like. I expected him to be holding some sort of sign, but I was wrong, and I walked right past him without even knowing it was him when I walked out of the terminal! He didn't quite recognize me either, as he had expected me to walk out alone since I was traveling alone, but I walked out with a group of people because we all got our luggage at about the same time. Juan had actually left the airport when he turned around and came back in to give me a few euros in case I needed to use a pay phone or get a bus ticket. I tried to call Hector's number, but it didn't work. And then I was alone. At the airport. With no idea what I was doing, or what I should do, when all of the sudden I see a beautiful little girl. The same little girl who had been on the same flight to Madrid with that adorable smile. I remembered hearing her mom speak English and Spanish, so I walked up to her and very bluntly asked, "You speak English right?"

"Yes I do!" She replied.

"Ok, I am supposed to be picked up by somebody here and I can't find them and I don't know what to do and the pay phone isn't working and I don't know what to do!"

"Ok, do you have the number? Is it for here in Spain?"

"Yes!" And so she called Hector. His voice mail box was full. So she called Lilli, Hector's wife. I understood a lot of what she said, though she was speaking in Spanish. She said hello and that she was called on behalf of Lydia and that she had tried to call Hector and couldn't get a hold of him. Lilli said Hector had left for the airport an hour ago, and that she didn't know why he wasn't there. After the phone call I still didn't know what to do exactly, except wait for a while and see if Hector showed up.

And then the other lady turned and said "It's all right, He'll show up, don't worry! Did you check all of those people waiting at the gate?" I went back up and looked, but I didn't see a sign with my name on it, so I walked back over to the ladies, when suddenly this guy walks up and says, "Hello, are you Lydia?"

I replied, "Yes, yes I am!" Hurray! I was ok. I thanked the ladies for the help, and walked out of the airport with Hector. As we were driving back to his place, which is where all of the workers for this camp will be staying, Hector explained a little about Spanish culture and mindset and why missionaries are so desperately needed. as well as why they are actually very hard to find here. He describes the spirit of the people as having a hardness, a pride which causes people to stick to their guns even when they don't know whether what they are saying is true. It makes it very difficult to minister to them. This is one way you can pray for the people we will be working with hear, that God would soften their hearts and show himself to them in a way that they recognize that He is real.

When we finally arrived at the house after taking a quick detour to the school, I was greeted warmly by Lilli. Lilli danced at Belhaven many years ago. I knew she was an alumni, but what I didn't know is that she is actually Austrian. So I'm sitting at the breakfast table, listening to Hector and Lilli and their son, Danny, speak English, Spanish, and German. It was really neat! We ate palachinka, which is a very thin Austrian pancake which we spread plum jam on and rolled up and ate.

And then I took a little nap, and now we are all caught up to the present on our story. I'm very excited to see where it goes from here! Pray for our team members safety and wisdom, pray for me personally that I will listen and let God direct me. Pray for the kids and their parents, that Christ would become real to them. I love you all and thank you very much for your support! Thank you God for taking care of me and helping me get here safely and for providing help in the little things. You are awesome!