Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mission Report!

So, I'm a little delayed writing about it here, but as many of you know, I recently spent 3 1/2 weeks on an overseas mission trip. That month away was truly amazing in so many ways. There is no way I can fully describe it here, but I'd like to at least try to give you a glimpse of it! So if you're ready... hang on because I'm about to take you on a quick trip around the world!! :-)

On July 16-17, I traveled for over 24 hours....all by myself....to Kenya. I came to the conclusion that I do not like traveling alone!! Especially not when traveling such a long way. It's just too lonely!! Yeah, I'll be completely honest, I almost totally broke down in the Amsterdam airport in the middle of the night...not a fun experience! But the weeks following were more than worth it.

Being back in Kenya again after 3 years was great! I lived with the same missionary family who I lived with last time I was there, and got a bit spoiled... my own bedroom, hot showers almost every morning, and delicious homemade food almost every night! :-) There was also another small group staying with us, who all work together at an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) Camp in Michigan. We all quickly became like a big family! In fact, on the first night the FCA team arrived -- I'd already been there for a couple of days -- this conversation could be overheard between one of the FCA guys and myself as we played a card game:
"You jerk!"
"Wait, you've only known me for two hours and you're already calling me a jerk?"
"Sorry. I go into brother mode quickly."
"That's okay..I'm used to brother teasing!"

Since I was working with the same missionary as before, we were in Orbit Village again, with many of the same children that I met and fell in love with on my last trip. The Orbit Village Project has a Christian school, a church, two orphanages (boys and girls), and a child sponsorship program. <--click on the link for more info! It is a wonderful program that has changed thousands of lives for the better... including mine!!

During the two weeks we were there, we held a sports camp (FCA style, if any of you have done FCA camps before!) for the older kids, and a Vacation Bible School for the kids under 12 years. Nearly 100 kids attended the camp, and around 50 were at VBS each day.
My role? Each morning and afternoon, I led worship for the sports camp by playing guitar and singing. I had been sick for a week or two before leaving on the trip, and with that plus all the dust and dryness in Kenya, I was struggling with my voice the whole time! It took a lot of prayer, a lot of cough lozenges, and some dropping songs down a couple of keys for me to be able to lead the songs!!
video

One of the ladies from the Michigan team and myself, along with a few of the Orbit school teachers, led the VBS. Fifty children, age 3-11, in one tiny classroom can be a little overwhelming at times!! But the little ones are precious, very enthusiastic, and love any attention they can get from us American visitors :-) Each day, we taught them a Bible lesson and a Scripture verse to memorize, did art projects, sang children's songs, and played games such as the hokey pokey, duck duck goose (rhino rhino cheetah), relay races, and anything else we could think of to entertain them!!

You might notice in the pictures that most of the kids are wearing winter clothes. During our summer season here, it is winter in Kenya. Now keep in mind, Kenya is on the equator, so "winter" there is like spring here in Tennessee. While the kids were in long pants, jackets, and hats, most of the time I was wearing t-shirts!

It was wonderful to get to connect with my "sponsor sisters" again.. these are three young ladies that my family has sponsored for many years. Two of them have graduated from high school now, and the 3rd is a freshman. They are precious girls and SO much fun! :-)

One of the most meaningful parts of the Kenya trip for me was my special bond with "my baby girl." I met this sweet little one on my trip to Kenya three years ago and fell in love with her then. I was sooo hopeful that she would remember me this time, since she was only four years old before. Guess what... she did!! :-) The bond between us was almost like I had never left. We were nearly inseparable for the two weeks I was in Orbit, and saying goodbye to her at the end of those two weeks was heartbreaking. I'd bring her home if I could...

Okay, time to switch gears... after two weeks, it was on to a new country, a new continent, and new people! Making that change was challenging, but as much as I wanted to stay in Kenya longer, Romania ended up being amazing too! Here, I worked with Operation Mobilization, an organization that facilitates mission trips all over the world. This trip was definitely an international experience -- even our mission team was from all over the world!! Our group of about 25 people represented England, Ireland, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, and of course Romania.

This experience was quite different from Kenya, where we lived in a nice house... here in Romania, we were really roughing it!! We lived in tents, showered from a cold hose, used an outhouse, and washed our dishes in buckets of soapy water. True camping!! :-)

After two days of team-building, preparation, planning, worship, and bonding, we began a week of activities (KidsGames) with the local children. Each day, we ran KidsGames in the morning in one village, and in the afternoon in a second village. These were activities like sack races, tug-of-war, soccer, relay races, etc. Our mission team was divided into smaller teams of 3 or 4, each with a country name and several children assigned to us. It was fun to see the kids get really patriotic with team spirit! Since I was the only one who had come from USA, our small group was "Team America."

The language barrier was a real challenge on this trip, more than I expected. It took me awhile to realize that.... in Guatemala, I could use my minimal Spanish to communicate with the kids. In Kenya, I know a few words of Swahili and most of the kids speak at least some English. Here in Romania, I had NO way at all to verbally communicate with the kids, and it was really my first experience with that. It was a little frustrating at times, but it was neat to find other ways to communicate with them. Smiles, hugs, high-fives, laughter, and team spirit are the same in every language!! (thankfully, we also had our Romanian team members there to translate!)

On our last 2 days there, we got to do some sightseeing, including Castelel Bran (the legendary Dracula's castle), the old city of Brasov, and the narrowest street in Europe. What an experience!! The streets of Brasov were just like I've always imagined European streets to look like...

What was most meaningful on the Romania trip? God really showed me how big He is, how His church has no national boundaries, how HE has no boundaries! Working with the international mission team was truly eye-opening for me. As I listened to the others pray and worship in their own languages, I saw in a new way that God is not limited by language. As real as He is to me in my heart and life as I talk to Him in English.... He is JUST as real in Romanian, German, Swedish, and Dutch. Of course I knew this before, but experiencing it in this way was really amazing. All I could do was just to be in total awe of my awesome, international God!!! :-)

video

Having friends all over the world is pretty cool, too....here's most of our group...

If you have read this far, props to you!! ;-) Thanks for reading. This trip was an AMAZING experience that I am incredibly thankful for. I love seeing the world, meeting new people, serving God in different places, and experiencing HIM in a way that's only possible on the mission field... Hopefully this little "mission report" has blessed you in some way!
~Ashley

3 comments:

  1. I am so thankful that you have been able to experience these mission trips and have loved watching how God has brought each one together, even back to meeting Cyndy in 4th grade and His answering your prayer for a way to go to Guatemala as a teen. Then, of course, watching Him unfold everything this spring/summer. You give and receive many blessings.

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  2. Ashley, you were such a blessing to the kids and to the team in Romania. I'm sure that God has done many wonderful things through you on both of these mission trips, and it's brilliant to hear about all the things you have done! You were such fun to be around and the kids really loved you, thank you for being obedient to God and doing the work which He called you to do. I pray that God will continue to use you for His glory in all the things which you do! Thank you for being such a wonderful blessing,
    Rachael

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  3. GBU in Jesus Christ! Thanks for the update and your commitment 2 Him.

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