Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Time Has Come

We have left Valencia!!!
It's so hard to believe that project is already coming to an end. I remember moving into our apartment and waking up the next morning and saying to myself, "Well, this is my life for the next 5 weeks." It has really flown. I've had such a blast and God has taught me so much, and I know the rest of the team would say the same. We were all blessed with a strong community and overall physical health. We've formed some great relationships among ourselves and also with the students here, and now we can say we have friends in Venezeula! I think that's really fun. 
What happened this summer was real. By the grace of God, amazing things happened at the University of Carabobo. Leaders are coming forward, and new Bible studies are being formed on the engineering and medical campuses. Nearly 100 people received Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives this summer. Praise God, and thank you for your prayers!
If I ever see you in person and talk about this trip, please bear with me. I will most likely babble about it relentlessly, and my words will never justify the awesome things that have happened here in this South American country. Thanks so much for reading my blog (even if this is your first time), and please, e-mail me, call me, or even find me if you have questions or want to talk about anything! 
We studied the book of Colossians all summer, so I want to leave you with something from it. Here is Colossians 1:15-20, now one of my favorite passages.


He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For by him all things were created,
    in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
    whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities
—all things were created through him and for him. 
And he is before all things,
and in him all things hold together. 
And he is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
    whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross.

In Christ,
Liesl


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mountain, talent show, and miscellaneous

Last Saturday night, we surprised all the guys with some traditional Venezuelan desserts at our apartment! 

About to climb the mountain!

At the bottom of the mountain, there were stairs like this. After about ten minutes of incline, not so much.

The view halfway up!

Katie! She's from U of I.


What it looked like more towards the top of the mountain

Reached the top!!


Guys

Girls!

For women's time on Tuesday, we went and got pedicures! School was cancelled so we had some extra time.

Not an excellent picture...but Tuesday night, for family fun night, the staff surprised us with fireworks!! It was a belated Fourth of July celebration. So much fun!

Dustin and I at a bus stop on our way to campus.

Humanities campus


Friday night, our outreach event was a talent show. All of the "gringoes" were strongly encouraged to participate.

Liz and Duglass doing a merengue dance

Christa and I read some intense poetry. We had a blast. I also participated in a group dance to "The Circle of Life" from the Lion King. That was a hoot

Oscar, an intern for Campus Crusade here in Valencia

Marcos, one of the involved students from the engineering campus, drew all of our faces for his talent!

Me with Emily, one of the STINTers after the talent show. She's such a sweet girl.

Blowing bubbles at the orphanage!

Miguel and Omar


Today begins our last week on campus. I'm sad that we're reaching the end, but I'm also excited about what God will do in this last week! We leave Valencia on Sunday and head to Margarita Island for a few days for debriefing. It's not over yet!!! :)


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Climb

Valencia is pretty much a basin surrounded by mountains. Yesterday, there was no school, so we went as a team and climbed one! I honestly haven't a clue how high it was, but it took us about 30 or 40 minutes to get to the top. It was such an experience! At the top, we could see the entire city of Valencia, plus layers of mountains behind it. It was really breathtaking. At the top, we took some pictures, prayed, and started our descent. About three minutes later, we saw a rainbow behind some of the mountains in the distance! That was probably the best part of the whole day. It was like God's response to our prayers, and reminder us that He loves us.
And then Melissa talked about God's love for us last night at project meeting! After a great testimony from Tony and a fun group Mad Lib called "Gringoes Climbing a Mountain," Melissa, Bart's wife, gave us a talk about one of the 4 L's - Love the Lord. She spoke about Ephesians 3:14-21. I absolutely love this passage, so here it is:



14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.


Melissa's talk was a really refreshing reminder of God's love for each of us despite our imperfections and sinful nature. So I hope this can be an encouragement to you today!

Friday, July 1, 2011

This crazy, fantastic week in Venezuela!

Monday was a really great start to a fresh week on campus. Carly and I talked to two girls who both accepted Christ! It was really awesome. Then we got to eat lunch with them and meet some of their other friends, and then invited them all to our weekly English club and Bible study. I really hope they come out to some of our events and get plugged in with the community! It’s super exciting and encouraging to see God bring people to Himself right before our eyes. In South America! It's such a privilege to be a part of.

Monday night we had a project meeting. Each meeting starts out with a game, and this week it was telephone charades. It’s like telephone, but you act out the phrase instead of saying it. That was a hoot. Then we sing one or two worship songs accompanied our worship band (guitarist Dustin, drummer Quin, and singer Bridgett.) Next is a testimony from either a STINT member or a teammate. Joey (teammate, OSU) gave his on Monday, and it was really great. He was very vulnerable and honest with us, and really portrayed well how God has worked in his life. Claire, an intern from Ohio State, gave the talk for the night, and she spoke about Launching Movements, which is one of the 4 L’s of summer project (see right column.) One of the passages she showed us was Matthew 28:19 & 20, which says:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Her talk was very uplifting, as she always is. A huge thanks to all my ministry partners who helped me raise the needed money for this trip, so together we can be part of the Great Commission in Matthew 28!

On Tuesday I spent campus time with Claire. After that was men’s and women’s time, where both groups had their own opposite sex panel and got to submit anonymous questions to the opposite sex staff and STINTers. It was definitely a beneficial learning experience for the whole team, helping us to know more about what Christ-centered relationships look like. After that, we spent our family fun night eating the best meal of the trip thus far. We went to a restaurant called Rodeo Grille, and ate a family style meal with huge skewers of chicken and steak, and plates of veggies, meat, and yuka (kind of like a potato.) It was delicious, and everyone was just super duper happy.

Wednesday morning before campus time, a teammate Justin did a devotional with us about thankfulness. He really helped remind us how much we are blessed and how much we have to thank God for in our lives – every tiny little thing. Water to drink, legs to walk/run, nature to enjoy. At the university, I went sharing with two med campus teammates, Carly and Kristin (both my roommates too.) It’s been really remarkable to us how open the Venezuelan students will be with us. They’re almost never shy about telling us what they believe. They’ll pretty much answer any question we ask them. And they’ll talk about what they believe in front of their friends and peer, no sweat. People here are very spiritually thirsty, and our team has seen a lot of evidence of that during our time on campus. Many students really want to read the Bible and learn more about God.

For example, at our family dinners, we get a chance to share our experiences on campus with the whole team. On Wednesday night my teammate Brian shared about a guy he met whose family practices Santeria witchcraft. This guy doesn’t have the same beliefs as his family, and he wants to know more about the Bible, so he has one hidden under his bed!

Another interesting story Brian told was about a guy on campus that helps them translate when they’re sharing. They met him one day, and since then, he’s been very willing and generous about being a translator for them. He wears a cross necklace, and when Brian asked if he was a Christian, he said no, and that he’s actually an atheist – the necklace was just a gift from a long time ago. This guy is an atheist. He translates for Christian missionaries. He wears a cross necklace. And get this…his name is Jesús. I think God has intentions here.

Today upon arriving at campus, I was feeling a little bit discouraged about the minimal follow-up I’ve been able to do with those I’ve shared with. It can be hard to follow up with medical students who are so focused on their studies. However, about five seconds after I entered the medicine building, Verónica and Joseidith, the girl who accepted Christ last Thursday, walked up to me. This is the first time I’ve seen them all week, and it was exactly the encouragement I needed. Praise the Lord. They couldn’t hang out for long because they had a test, but I got to talk to them for a few minutes and invite them to our bowling outreach on Sunday!

Tonight was breakfast for dinner – pancakes, eggs, ham, and bananas. Everyone was overjoyed. After dinner, we celebrated the Shadles’ daughter Leah’s first birthday!! It was so fun! We sang to her and had cake and ice cream. Then we had a project meeting with a STINT testimony from Emily, fun Mad Lib as a group, and a really powerful talk by Bart on Colossians 1:24-2:5. I’m really excited for tomorrow, another day on campus. We’ll all be at the humanities campus for the weekly Vida Estudiantil meeting!

It would be great if you could pray for our team, and ask that God would be glorified in everything we do during the rest of summer project. Thanks so much for your support! I’ll close with a quote that Bart shared with us in one of his talks:

“The gospel is for the individual – you, me, and every man, woman, and child; not despite the fact that it’s about the renewal of the whole world, but because of it.”
 – NT Wright

Thursday, June 30, 2011

More pictures, update coming soon!

Sarah (intern) teaching the kids the Bible lesson at the orphanage.
Teammates Tony (left) and Joey (right).

Sign for the orphanage that was at our bus stop.

Quin with one of the kids

Alex 

After the lesson, there was a coloring activity. Each of us paired up with one of the kids.

Heath, a STINTer, doing the coloring activity with one of the kids.

Eating mamón, a small, slimy fruit


Emily (a roommate) was dancing around to the VBS songs with this adorable little girl.

This was one of the older kids - she's 11.


Brian was playing a game with this kid on his shoulders where they would charge at people. They both loved it. I got attacked a couple of times.

Blurry representation of the food at Rodeo Grille, this week's family fun night

Skewers!! (Teammate Dustin on left, our worship band's guitarist)

Me, Carly, Bridgett. Carly is one of my roommates, and we run together a lot in the mornings.  Bridgett is a super talented singer, and sings for our worship band.


A bunch of the group enjoying freshly blended strawberry juice before dinner.
From left: Katie, Lamma, Justin, Alyssa, Oscar, Jesús, Brian


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Speaking Spanish, orphanage, new believer


Last Sunday our team split up into two groups and went to two different churches here in Valencia. My group went to a church called Genesis, and the entire service was in Spanish. We signed a visitors’ sheet upon our arrival, and at the beginning of the service, they called each of our names individually and we had to stand up. That was pretty fun, and they were all so hospitable. Close to half of the congregation greeted us with the traditional Venezuelan kiss on the cheek, and said “Dios le bendiga” which means “God bless you.” It was a really fun experience, but since most of us couldn’t understand what was happening, our staff decided we should just put on a small church service of our own on Sunday mornings. Monday after we got back from campus, Bart asked to talk to me, and I actually got pretty nervous for a sec. I couldn’t think of anything I would have been in trouble for, and Bart can be super hard to read sometimes. All he wanted to ask me, though, is if I wanted to help plan/arrange our church service! One of my teammates Will and I are in charge of doing it. We’re going to have a little time for worship songs, a sermon downloaded from iTunes, and then group reflection questions. We also hope to add a breakfast at the beginning! It’ll be a great start to another week!

Today was our first visit to the orphanage. It’s called Abansa and it’s about a thirty-minute bus ride to get there. There are around twenty kids that live there, from ages 2 to about 16, so it’s definitely a wide range. It was a really fun day, and I think our whole team was glad to be able to just love on those kids - well-behaved or not - because they really need it. Sarah, a staff member, gave them an interactive Bible lesson with a coloring activity – she did a great job. In all honesty, it was pretty loud and chaotic the whole time, but I know God was still working and that He was sovereign over the situation. Pictures coming soon!

Out of all the conversations I’ve had on campus, one has been in English. I’ve been speaking so much Spanish that my brain hurts sometimes. But I love it! I’m so glad to be here and able to use this language that I’ve been studying for six years to help God further his kingdom! Since my Spanish is far from fluent, sometimes it feels like a lot of what I’m trying to portray to people about my faith and the gospel is lost in translation, but again, God is sovereign! That is a fact that every one of us has to be reminded of several times a day with a new culture, a language gap, and other glitches – God reigns in all of them.

The Lord has been teaching me so much already in my time here. During the week, we have daily quiet times with God, a devotional led by one of the team members, sharing on campus, and another event at night, depending on the day – family fun night, Bible study, or project meetings. We talk about Jesus so much, it would be impossible not to grow in our faith! I am really excited about what God is doing in our hearts this summer.

On Thursday my two friends Liz, Carly, and I shared with two girls, Joseidith and Verónica in the medical building on campus. We did Soularium with them, which is a picture-led survey about people’s lives and beliefs that helps start up spiritual conversations (all the Venezuelan students love it!) Verónica was a Christian and said she wanted to be a medical missionary someday. So that was really awesome. Joseidith said she believed in God, and believed that Jesus died on the cross, but she was ashamed of her sins. She said she was afraid of having a relationship with God because she didn’t want to fail him. We explained to her that if she were to accept Jesus as her personal savior, her sins would be covered by the cross, and she would be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). She accepted Christ right then and there! You could really tell she meant it, and that she desired Jesus in her life. We will see Joseidith before the throne of God in heaven! Praise the Lord. We hope to follow up with her in the weeks to come, and to guide her in her walk so that she can grow.

We’ve been making good friends with the currently involved students. They’re definitely a blast. It’s been super great and encouraging to come to South America and be able to meet students who are so on fire for Jesus. They pray to God in Spanish, and we pray to God in English, but we’re both worshipping the same God!

There are so many more things I could write about! I might have a blog post all about the food here sometime soon. I’ll try to update sometime partway through the week. Hasta luego!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pictures!

 The sky from the plane! So awesome!

Main room of our apartment

 Kitchen of our apartment. We haven't done much cooking,
 but we've eaten a lot of cereal!
Bathroom of the apt

On the medical campus

 Three girls I met on dentistry. They needed patients to X-ray their teeth,
 so I volunteered! It was safe, don't worry!


Circle bench 




Mountains surround the city of Valencia!

Learning to Salsa dance!

 The students involved with Campus Crusade here put on a 
welcome party for us! It was a blast!

Deborah and Emily



 Liz, Alyssa, Kari, Emily


One one of our days off campus, we took a day trip to a 
beach called Cayo Sombrero





Underwater O-H-I-O

'
Marcus and Noah - staff kids, and adorable!

Foraging for mangoes on medical campus!

We collected a bunch and brought them back to our apartment

                                                        

So many mangoes!