Another Last…

Warren Group Picture

I am not sure how to write this post.

It seems surreal that we find ourselves in this place.

How did we get here?  Well it was peppered with laughing, first experiences, late nights, ridiculous SnapChat videos, frustrating pictures turned videos…disagreements, frustrations, clash of culture, American experiences, traveling, broadening of horizons, eyes open to the mercy and grace of God.  It was full of trips to Wal-Mart to buy yet again, another cup with a straw and pit stop to Starbucks on the way home.  One can’t forget the rushed morning routine, getting to school with 1 minute to spare and hoping that the side door would still be open! Donut Palace.  Trinity Youth Group.  It sounded like the beep of a blue-tooth alarm clock connecting to an iPhone.  It’s the sound of an alarm sounding on a Saturday morning after she stayed the night with a friend. Music.  A beautiful transition from pop music to contemporary Christian.  Homecoming with friends.  It tastes like fried eggs and pancakes.  It’s laced with failed attempts to make Belgian waffles.  Trips to Waffle House instead.  Running around the neighborhood, trips to Snap Fitness.  Factory Connection, JCPenny’s, Rue21, Forever 21.  Prom with a new-found love.  Cheeseburgers.  Loud music with the windows down.  World Outreach Church.  Sonic Facebook friends discount.  Chocolate shakes.  Shooting stars.  Eyes and heart opened to the mysteries of God.  Insecurity turned confidence.  An entire blog post could be made with such descriptions.

July 11th, 2015 my husband and I went to Outback Steak House to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.  While there, we discussed the possibilities of welcoming an exchange student into our home for the 2015/2016 school year.  Life-changing.  Memorable.  Gosh those seem like such cliche words to use but it’s absolutely the truth.  We knew that we would be exposed to a different thought perspective.  We knew that we would see the world through different glasses.  We knew we’d help her do the same.  What we weren’t prepared for was for our hearts to be knit together as tightly as they have been.  We weren’t prepared for the end of the line…the list of “lasts” that we would experience and the small tears in the stitches of our heart that would happen as a result.  I was just telling her last night that our agency is really good about telling you about all the GREAT things that will happen but a description of how incredibly excruciating it would be to transition from having a daughter to being without one.  How hard the last month would be.   All of these “lasts.”  We weren’t prepared for the moment when we would be face to face with the realization that in 2 Tuesdays or 2 church services or 1 month down the road of life….it would no longer involve all 6 of us, but only 5 of us.  Part of our heart would be getting on a jet plane to go back to her home country.  The unknown span of time was quickly approaching between our, “See you later,” and “It’s SOOO good to see you again!”  The intense prayers scribbled in my prayer journal that she will stay close to Christ and lean on Him when she is faced with the Babylonian mindset and that she takes tools out of her Survival Kit when she needs them.   This past Wednesday evening, we realized it would be the last dinner at church that she would be here for.  Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and a cheesecake layered desert.  Next to dropping her off at the airport, today was one of the most final things that could happen in a homestay experience.  The last day of school.

The morning went like most others.  Wake up, make breakfast, make lunch, wait for her to get done getting beautiful (even though she could totally get out of bed and take one of those “I woke up like this!” pictures), load up in the car, squeal tires to get to the drop of line by 7:54 so she could get in the door and to the gym by 7:55.  What wasn’t the same was the fact that as I turned the last left turn to head to the school, I realized that it would be the last time we would be doing that.  The last time to rush around.  The last time to say, “Have a good day, Belgian!  Make your brain big!”  The last time to watch her walking up the sidewalk.  The last time to plan my day to get everything done before leaving the house to pick her up at 2:30….wait…I didn’t even have to do THAT today because she was going home with a friend.  Yesterday she went home with Derek….that means…Wednesday was the last day for that, too.  The whole way home I was in a fog.  Could this really be coming to an end?  Is this really it?  See, in my mind, when we started, the end would never come.  That was something that would happen WAAAAaaay in the future…as in…never.  Yet, reality set in today.  The end is nigh. The end is in 11 days.  Wow…

Here’s the crazy part.  As much as I am hurting and so sad that this is coming to an end, I realize that there’s two (sometimes three) sides to every story.  I realize my pain is someone else’s joy.  Partially Audrey’s but whole-heartedly her family’s!  They have been waiting 10 months to hold their daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter in their arms.  To hold her close. To hear about her day.  To share life with her.  My selfishness of not wanting to give her back was someone else’s generosity 10 months ago.  Her parents supported her decision to pursue a homestay, spent time, money, energy and effort to make sure she had everything she need to be successful.  My tight grip was someone else’s loose hand.  They took her to the airport and put her on a plane to somewhere they had never been with people they had only skyped with twice.

Audreys Baptism
If I look back on this year, I have to thank God for putting this whole thing in motion when Audrey was just a little girl.  I believe all things that happen in life are filtered through our Father’s hands.  Do I believe her love for the USA and for the English language happened by chance?  Nope. Do I think that she was born into a family where her father speaks English?  Nope.  Do I think that it’s by chance that she mustered up the courage to apply for and actually follow through with going to a different country when she had never even traveled alone in her life.  Not a chance.  Do I think that her finding our music interesting was coincidence?  Ha!  No way!  Do I think the stars aligned in such a way that made it possible for for her to placed in our home?  Are you Crazy?  The only explanation I can find for this last year is that God knew before the creation of this world that this year would take place. That an 18 year old girl from Belgium would need to hear the Gospel.  That she would listen and learn for 10 months and then go through a complete life change.  I believe he knew that in order for all that to happen, she would need to leave what was comfortable and go to a place where she would be show the love of Christ on a daily basis.  Perfect love?  No, we are incredibly flawed to say the least.  But…a perfectly imperfect love is what we had to offer her.  It is amazing to know that I have a daughter which I have carried in my heart this year.  She came a stranger and leaves my Sister.  Oh Lord, I am so unworthy of this gift.  Thank you for bringing her into my life and allowing me to witness a miracle in her life.  You really leave me awestruck as I think about this beautiful wanderlust of a young woman.  Lord, have your way with her life.  To you be the glory.  Amen!

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A Stroke of God’s Love

God is awesome.  Let me just say that really quick.  I just have to give Him so much praise.  Yesterday I lost count of how many times I cried overwhelmed tears due to the way God was moving in response to prayer.  I am still in awe of him and so excited  that so many have seen Him in big ways in the last week or so.  I believe the best is yet to come.  In advance, I apologize if this blog post is a bit back and forth and a bit long.  I hope I don’t miss any details.

Many of you already know that Josh and I have taken in an exchange student from Belgium.  She is such a great fit for our family.  She isn’t used to having much younger kids in the home, but she is patient and has adapted well.  Her spunk and sass is a nice addition to the male-heavy tone in our home.  🙂  She has been such a blessing to our family.  We decided to host through Cultural Homestay International (CHI), an organization I would recommend if you are interested in doing the same.  Our family will never be the same having had her in our lives.  She is such a ray of sunshine in our home.

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On August 25th, I logged into facebook to find a message from our CHI Tennessee coordinator saying the following:

Students and families please keep a 16 year old young man from China in your thoughts and prayers today. He is an exchange student with CHI in the state of Illinois. He is in critical condition after suffering a stroke yesterday while in PE class. He has a blood clot in his carotid artery. He is unconscious and on a feeding tube at this time. Please pray that his family will get here safe and quickly and that a miracle will happen for him.

Naturally my heart began to cry out to the Lord for healing and peace.  I instantly placed myself in the shoes of his host family and his natural parents.  My word.  I cannot even make myself go to either one of those places.  God impressed upon me to find a way to serve him during that time.  While our coordinator and her assistant were on their way to St. Louis to show support for that situation, I contact them and asked if I could organize a card shower for the student and host family.  They agreed.

This is what was posted on facebook.  This is still an option of you’d like to get involved:

CHI Card Shower

A. Send greeting cards of encouragement to his host family, his biological family and/or him. We are asking that you put “Host Family” “Student” or “Family” in the lower left hand corner on the back of the envelope so each card can get to the right person without the cards having to be opened first.

B. Send a prepaid debit card to be used by the biological/host family for gas, food and/or personal items associated with staying at a hospital and possibly rehab center for a little while. There’s no telling how long they will be here, but his biological family had to leave China quickly. Changes are they forgot things. We all know how expensive eating out can be and what a hit that can take on one’s finances. If you were a person who wanted to rally your Sunday school class, this would be a great option for a group support effort.

C. Send Domino’s, Jimmy John’s and/or Pizza Hut gift cards. The cafe on site is reportedly VERY expensive. There is a Pizza Hut on site so these could be used there or for delivery. All three of these places deliver. This would be another great option for Sunday schools or small groups to either purchase a variety of cards or one larger card to one place.

D. For those in Coffee, Bedford, Franklin, Cannon, Moore and Warren counties: I am collecting non-perishable foods (peanut butter crackers, fruit cups, pudding, granola bars, etc), gum, mints, small coloring/activity books, cards etc to for the family to use in the waiting area. I will be sending this box NEXT FRIDAY (the 7th) to give people enough time to gather items and meet up with me. Depending on where you are located, we may have to meet in the middle.

The last I heard, nearly $100 in prepaid VISA gift cards had been received and delivered to the family!  Thank you for helping!  That’s awesome!  Donations also came in locally of food and financial support for the care package.  That was shipped out today and should arrive Tuesday!

During the coordinator’s stay in St. Louis, they posted this update:

He has a tiny hole in his heart that has probably been there. The doctors believe that the long flight caused the blood clot to set up and it has just been floating around until it found the hole and that is where it lodged.

They have removed his breathing tube to see how he is going to do on his own. China will only allow one emergency visa so his natural father is getting that. The flight is so long so hopefully he will be here in a couple of days.

At this point many began to pray that God would work it out so that both parents could travel to be by his side during this time.  A time later, we were given this update:

Update: His family will arrive tonight at 9:15. His parents and little brother all got their Visas!!! He is conscious, but still unable to move anything on his left side. Thank you all for your prayers and support. We will be heading back later this evening.

Praise GOD!  God provided for his whole immediate family to travel to be by his side!  That’s something only God could do!  He went above the law of the land to provide for this student!

Upon their arrival, CHI hired a translator to help the family speak with doctors about decisions and to gain their whereabouts.  From what I understand, it is unclear how long this individual will be able to stay to offer his services.  Something in my heart just wanted to cry.  Having been to India, I can slightly relate with how it feels to look around and see VERY FEW people who look and sound like you do.  Here are these parents (and brother) plunged into a situation where their son is very sick, they can’t speak the language, are unfamiliar with the food, have no idea how to get around (not that they would probably want to leave their son’s side)…and the translator will only be available for a short time.  My heart just felt so bad for them.  I tried to think of people I knew in the St. Louis area and remembered one of my friends all through school lived in Missouri.  I contacted her on facebook and began to discuss the cards and then expressed my desire to find someone to reach out to them in person.  I began to look for Christian chruches in the close proximity to the hospital with not much luck.  I thought maybe I could help coordinate meals for the family and general outreach during this hard time.  Each time I found one which looked promising, there wouldn’t be contact information available.  SIDE TANGENT:  If you are in charge of a church website, PLEASE make sure there’s a phone number listed.  Your website is somewhat ineffective if someone in need can’t have access to you or your ministries by way of phone.  Looking back, I can see it was God’s plan though.  Just yesterday, September 3rd, I did yet again another  search for churches in St. Louis.  What popped up?  “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church!”  I literally sat there with tears in my eyes.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I didn’t type in anything special.  Nothing different from the other searches I had done for a week leading up to yesterday.  It was just God’s timing…and it was perfect!  And guess what?  There was a phone number so I called and left a voicemail.

After a couple of hours, I called again because I figured nobody would be in the office on Friday.  The following is a bit of a summary of our conversation:

A man answers the phone: Hello?ME:  Hi this is Andrea, I called earlier about a Chinese exchange student who is currently being treated at St. Louis Children’s Hospital…”
It was at that moment my brain realized when he answered the phone he said, “Hello” and not something along the lines of, “St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church, this is ____.  Can I help you?”
ME:  I’m sorry.  Is this St. Louis Chinese Baptist Church?
MAN:  No.  I don’t go to that church anymore.  When I did attend there anymore.  How did you get this number?
ME:  *Palm to face*  I’m thinking, great….I thought this was God’s provision.  “I searched for churches in the St. Louis area whom I thought might help reach out to a Chinese exchange student who is being treated at Children’s Hospital. Do you by chance have the phone number for that church?”
MAN:  They don’t have a lanline number that I know of.
ME:  Oh boy…ok, well…. hummm.  What about an email address?  I tried to email them but the email was returned because that email address isn’t in use anymore.
MAN:  That was also my email address.
ME:  Shoot…ok.  I am looking for a church who can reach out to a Chinese student and his parents.  He is an exchange student and suffered a stroke last week.  His parents are in from China but they don’t speak English at all.
MAN:  Do you have an email that you can send?  I will forward it to the pastor of the church I go to now.  It’s called Chinese Gospel Church.
ME:  Yes.  I will do that when we get off of the phone if I can have a good address to send it to.
MAN: *he gives it to me*
ME:  Great!  I will send it to you when we get off the phone.  Thank you!

A few hours later, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize.  Normally I just let it go to voicemail, knowing if it is a sales call they won’t leave a message.  Moments later, my phone beeped with a voicemail.  Because I was making dinner I wanted to check it.  When I did, I got tears in my eyes again.  It was an elder from the Chinese Gospel Church calling to get room number and additional information about the student.  Not only was I connect with this church in a way that the world would say was “by chance” but they had follow through!  I called the gentleman back and discussed the student’s and parent’s situation.  I inquired as to when this weekend he would be traveling to the hospital to make a connection.  He said it wouldn’t be this weekend, but that very evening.  Keep in mind please it’s 9pm while we are on the phone.  We prayed before we got off of the phone and looked very much forward to hearing a report.  Later I learned that he wasn’t able to visit because visiting hours ended at while we had been talking on the phone but that he and his wife had plans to go around noon the today (the 4th).  To God be the glory!  A willing and ready servant!  You know, it’s great to see someone with the shoes of readiness firmly secured.  Praise the Lord!  Not only that, he said that they would be turning this into a local mission of sorts.

We are a homeschooling family.  While I was at Co-op today, I got a phone call from a Missouri number.  I quickly answered it and learned it was an additional elder from Chinese Gospel Church wanting to clear up some communication issues.  He also confirmed that they would be working with their fellowship this weekend to make a plan to surround this family in love and service while they are here.  I was so overwhelmed by God once again.  Currently I am waiting on a report from the meeting that was scheduled to take place today.

Where does this mission project go from here?

Because of the predicted amount of time the family will be at the hospital (they should be able to check into the Ronald McDonald Home sometime soon), I am encouraging those willing to serve somehow through this situation to consider the following in order to keep the support rolling.  Don’t forget you are welcome to rally your own church/Sunday school class to get involved.

Two flatrate boxes were sent to the family of a Chinese exchange student who suffered a stroke last week.  Thanks to God for the provisions that made this possible.

Thanks to God for the provisions that made this possible.

  • Purchasing a package of blank cards from a dollar type store, stamps for those cards and go ahead and address the cards.  When God leads you to encourage the family, host family or student, please feel free to do so.  I am also giving them out to families with whom I share his situation with who want to help.
  • I will be putting together another care package shipment to the family in October.  If you would like to help provide items for the box, financial gift to purchase things for the box or pay for shipping, you are more than welcome.
  • I learned that the host family is traveling every 3 days or so to the hospital.  Their family lives approximately 45 minutes away so they are spending a decent amount on gas each time.  I plan to send a card to them also with a prepaid VISA card in it for gas expenses.  Maybe consider doing the same?  I know if our student was the one sick, I wouldn’t be able to just stay at home.  I would be heartbroken and would want to be there, too.
  • PRAY for the student’s healing!
  • PRAY for Chinese Gospel Church and the work they will be doing for this family.
  • PRAY for the peace and comfort of Christ to be accepted by the family of this student.

As of right now, this is what I know about our support efforts. Thank you for those of you who have been a part of this outreach.

  • 4 states are represented among those who have agreed to send cards to the student, family and/or host family!
  • Close to $100 has been sent to the family by way of prepaid VISA cards!  I have been notified that more are expected to be sent as well!
  • One church in South Carolina, primarily comprised of single moms, has agreed to take up a special offering for the family and to send cards!
  • Countless churches across the United States have placed this situation on their prayer lists.
  • God heard the desire of the student’s brother to have Legos to play with.  They were purchased for the care package without even knowing of his desires.

I believe that God has something bigger in store for this student and for this family.  I just can’t wait to see what he does in their lives.  His healing power, his ability to provide comfort and peace during this time of crazy circumstance…  Only He will be able to be glorified in the end.  He has already showed His power and I don’t see Him walking away now.  He is mighty to save and worthy of praise.

 

On a Mission: 48 hours+ back in the United States recap.

I find it every difficult to accurately put into written language what I experienced between the dates of December 26th and January 7th. I have had several people ask if we had fun on our trip. Fun isn’t an appropriate.  Sure, we played games with the boys and experienced fun things, but overall, the trip wasn’t fun.  Eye-opening, for sure.  Humbling?  That’s like saying I like chocolate.  Is that statement true?  Absolutely!  But it doesn’t fully describe why I like it, when I like to have it, which grade or which style I prefer.  It couldn’t possibly communicate the satisfaction or delight I have when the first bite melts on my tongue.  And we’re just talking about chocolate. The bible says in Issaiah 55:

8“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

9For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so my ways are higher than your ways

and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

I understand what happened during our stay in India in my soul far better than I can pretend to convey in words or pictures.  You will have to come with me next time to fully grasp what happened.

I am going to do my best to go day by day and recap what was experienced, funny sayings, God appointments and the such but right now I am just not sure I can do it.  God was definitely in the middle of all things and he is so good.  He has show myself, and I feel it safe to say our whole group, that we are disgustingly privileged beyond measure as Americans.  God purposed to have all 14 team members born here in the United States and not somewhere else in the world for a reason.  I am just not 100% sure what that reason is yet.  It is by His grace that I write to you in my warm and safe home where I am pretty sure we will eat tomorrow.  It’s only by His grace.

In the next paragraphs, I will attempt to explain why I am in the state of mind that I am in…not being about to form a clearly communicated thought.  Right now, at nearly 6 am on Friday the 9th, I find myself able to sit up on my own without swaying back and forth.  My entire body doesn’t ache, my ears don’t feel like they rupture anymore.  When swallowing, mere glass shards are felt instead of full sized razorblades.  Nausea has passed.  It is a good day.

Let me back up to Tuesday morning, 7:30am Jaipur time.  All 14 team members are waking up, gathering their belongings and preparing to head downstairs to the restaurant for breakfast.  Once all of that is done we move all said belongings to the lobby where we turn in our keys and say goodbye to any form of bed for the next two days.  From there, we spent the day finishing up gift shopping, eating at India’s version of KFC and walked through the historic Jaipur district, also known as the Pink City.

When we left the hotel, we headed to our friend’s house for a cooking tutorial of how to make authentic Indian chai.  Before getting on the buss to Dehli, we went to their version of Wal-Mart to pick up authentic spices to take home and recreate it!  Several years ago, my sister introduced me to chai at Starbucks and I fell in love.  Little did I know that years later I would find myself in a country where it is found on every street corner, available for pennies a cup, and served at least 3 times a day.  Starbucks is good, but authentic chai is much better.  MMmmmm…

Once we left their house, we went to downtown Jaipur and shopped at Rajasthali.  It’s a four-level department store with everything from framed paintings and marble items to textiles and woodworking.  Though many people bought items to take home to family and friends, we didn’t find anything we had to have.  I’m sure part of that is because this is when I started to feel less than 100%.  My throat started hurting and my ears began to feel like they had pressure behind them.

Seatbelt laws don't apply in India.  Nor do you have to adhere to the suggested seating numbers.  At one point in the trip we had 13 people in this vehicle.

Seatbelt laws don’t apply in India. Nor do you have to adhere to the suggested seating numbers. At one point in the trip we had 13 people in this vehicle.

Part of our group waiting for the rest of the group to finish at Rajasthali.

Part of our group waiting for the rest of the group to finish at Rajasthali.

After we shopped, we went to KCF, India style!  Most of us got chicken tenders, fries and a drink.  The chicken was great, the fries weren’t like they make them here and the drink was cold.  All in all it was a great trip.  It facinates me how differently other cultures translate things.  I don’t mean just in language but in the way they portray things.  See pictures below:

It seems most places deliver where we were.  KFC does it by motorcycle.

It seems most places deliver where we were. KFC does it by motorcycle.

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Part of our team waiting to order.  I think the majority of us just got chicken tenders (which were really good), fries and a drink.  They cook their fries in a different kind of oil so they were different than we expected but all in all, it was good.

Part of our team waiting to order.  This is done on ground level and then you go upstairs for seating.    I think the majority of us just got chicken tenders (which were really good), fries and a drink. They cook their fries in a different kind of oil so they were different than we expected but all in all, it was good.

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Selfies...even in India!

Selfies…even in India!

Melissa giving Tangy Sauce (Ketchup...sort of) a try.

Melissa giving Tangy Sauce (Ketchup…sort of) a try.

Once we finished eating, we had about an hour and a half before we had to load up and go back to our friend’s appartment.  We had to allow enough time for a few to go to a music store to pick up drums like we used in our worship time with the nationals and for the women to run to the store to get the spices for chai.  Seven of us decided to head to the Pink City to check it out.  Scott, our fearless leader, had never been there before and he has been to India I don’t know how many times.  It was an adventure for sure.

One of three gates to the old city.  The Pink City is the original layout of the original city of Jaipur.  There isn't much of a difference between the two sides of the gate, but it was fun to say we'd been there!

One of three gates to the old city. The Pink City is the original layout of the original city of Jaipur. There isn’t much of a difference between the two sides of the gate, but it was fun to say we’d been there!

Truth be told, the gates are more orange than pink.  India is kind of like that.  You many be told one thing, but you come to expect something completely different.  In all of my research of India before we went, it was often said that India is full of contradictions. We, too found that to be true a time or two.

Pink City is full of...basically mini storages side by side by side by side with apartments above.

Pink City is full of…basically mini storages side by side by side by side with apartments above.

One of the things you can see in this picture is kites.  The kites are part of the Kite Festival which will take place on the 14th.  Kids and adults alike will try to fly these kites to see who can fly A. the highest and B. the longest.  The first 20 feet of string closest to the kite is coated in glass.  When the kite is in flight, each person tries to cut other people’s kite strings.  I wish we could have seen it!  The festival takes place on the 14th which will be…Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

It had been several hours since we had taken chai, so we sought out the closest chai stand.  We crossed the street and found this little, traditional stand.  There we met a group of Muslims how educated us on the five-per-day call to prayer that can be heard all over the city.  Very informative.

pink city chai

All of that conversation was going on while we waited for our cups to be poured and served.  They serve it straight from the big pots right into plastic cups thinner than Solo brand cups and much much smaller, too.  It is a mystery to me how this near boiling mixture doesn’t melt right through!  When it is handed to you, you have to hold it by the thicker rim at the top.  One, because the hot liquid isn’t there and two, because the plastic is thicker and harder there.  Theoretically that means it’s safer to hold there.  Unless you are me.

Have I mentioned that they serve chai VERY HOT and in thin plastic cups?

Have I mentioned that they serve chai VERY HOT and in thin plastic cups?

I was contributing to conversation and having a great time until…the upper lip of my cup snapped, the cup caved in causing the liquid the temperature of lava to flow down my arm.  It was pure luck that my friend took this picture when she did.  I am gasping for air…it burned so bad.  Eventually, the chai man swapped my cup and poured it’s remaining contents into another cup.

There were cows everywhere in India.  They believe that their ansestors are reincarnated into cows so they don't kill them and certainly don't eat them.  This cow was just hanging out on the road.  Just...hanging out!

There were cows everywhere in India. They believe that their ancestors are reincarnated into cows so they don’t kill them and certainly don’t eat them. This cow was just hanging out on the road. Just…hanging out!

One of our team members is 17 and came with her parents.  At one point, we had to make our way through a herd of cows and bulls on a very narrow side street.  There were cow pies EVERYWHERE and if there wasn’t one of those, then there was an actual cow/bull.  Feeling overwhelmed and without thinking, she yells, “Holy COW!”  We couldn’t help but crack up because, well…there, they are considered holy!

Scott ordered some hushpuppy-like things from a street vendor and he shared them with Josh and me.  Whoooooooo weee!  They were HOT!  That was my second adventure eating food from street vendors.  Later, I will share about pani puri.

We made it back to our rendezvous point (KFC) pretty much on time.  We saw half of our group on the other side of the street so we each had to make our way over there to be together.  Want to see how to cross the street in India?

Afterwards we went back to our friend’s apartment and Josh went to buy drums for the boys while I bought chai supplies.  Our host family’s wife had a birthday that day (Jan 5th) so we sang happy birthday to her, ate cupcakes and ordered pizza to take on the road with us.  Once it arrived, we loaded all belongings into the bus and made our way to Dehli via bus.  This bus was supposed to be nicer than all busses we had been on but several still got sick.

Dehli greeted us at about 12:00am on the 6th.  By this time, our team had been up for 17 hours.  We went right away to check in, get bags checked and headed to immigration.  At this point I had body aches and was sore all over.  My throat was hurting  pretty bag, too.  Immigration could also be called the inner depths of hell, the iron grid, a long winding hallway with a thousand people pushing/cutting/yelling/cussing to get to the end to claim free money.  There was one…1…one security guard.  Like one guy can control that many people.  I cannot describe the heat, attitude or atmosphere…the stress, anxiety and tension we went through.  It was horrible.  This alone will make me seriously examine things a second time when deciding to go back.  The Dehli airport.  Ahhh!

Because it took us so long to get through security (our flight was at 3:25, they were holding the plane for us) and immigration, we literally had to RUN to our gate, somewhat ushered by a British Airways employee.  We all get checked in only to find out one of our team mates didn’t get her bag stamped when we checked in before immigration.  She had to go back to a secondary check point to get her bag checked again and stamped.   When she was there we learned that earlier in the day a bomb threat had been made on a flight headed to London so they just had to be sure.  Great… so after all of the stress through security, running to the gate, now we have supposed bomb threats to flights going to London?  Enough is enough, folks…

We get on the plane finally.  I wasn’t able to sit with our team because of original seating arrangements and the fact we were the last to board the aircraft.  All I wanted to do was go to sleep, get off of this plane and make it on to my next connecting flight.  I don’t remember much of that flight except for the horrible food.  Up to this point plane food had been awesome.  Not so much this time.  It was an English breakfast of sorts but it just wasn’t so yummy this time.  I was just glad to hear the tires hit the pavement in London and the “fasten seatbelt sign” go off.

It was very clear to me

at this point that I was coming down with something more than just a sore throat.  My head was killing me.  I couldn’t stay awake, I was coughing and my entire body was wanting nothing more than to crawl in my bed and sleep.  Unfortnately I had a 6 hour layover (I think) in London and another nine hour flight plus another four hour car ride until we reached home sweet home.  We made our way through security again and then found our gate.  A gate.

I settled into a chair in the airport and napped for about an hour, I think.  Josh went on a search for a charging station so we could get some juice back into our electronics.  When he got back I set out to find Starbucks.  I had really wanted to find mugs from India and from London.  Unfortunately I didn’t find the first but I did find the second.  🙂  I also got a Peppermint Mocha but it wasn’t like they make it at home.  I paid nearly five pounds for it so I felt like I had to finish it.  Ughhh…  Josh and I got some lunch once resturants started serving.  I didn’t have much of an appitite but figured I could at least finish a burger.  Boy was I wrong.  I took a couple bites and had a few fries and that was all I could stomach. Josh ordered a “Take away bag” and we went back to our seats.  It was about then that we realized that our flight was moved to gate C.  That meant we had to go back down to main level and take the transit over to another terminal and take the trek back down that terminal.  I was near to tears the whole time.  My body just didn’t want to go anymore.  All I wanted to do was sleep.

After sitting in our gate for a bit I looked at my ticket and realized that I had been upgraded from coach seating to World Traveller Plus!  That meant I got a choice of nicer meals, more elbow room, bigger TV screens, better earphones, nicer pillows, more drinks and a few more snacks.  I was very happy to learn this because I really really really really wanted to be able to sleep in a more comfortable place.  I got to my seat and snuggled in.   I got the first flight attendant I could and asked for water to take my motion sickness meds.  I took those down and attempted to start a movie.  “Jersey Boys.”  It was a movie about the Four Seasons.  Because of a broken tug, the little vehicle that pushes the plane back from the gate so it can taxi to the runway, we had to sit for nearly 40 minutes.  Thankfully I had my blanket, a pillow and a good movie to pass the time.  When we finally took off, snacks came around pretty quickly.  I was glad to have something to drink but I had really wished I could have had something warm because I was sooooo cold, even with my sweatshirt and blanket.  I am actually suprised they let me on the flight without checking me out first.  Praise God they didn’t, because I probably wouldn’t have been able to board the plane.  I was officially sick.  Dinner came around.  I ordered Filet of Beef with roasted potatoes, baby carrots, fancy bread roll, caramel dessert and some other things.  REALLY NICE meal.  I opened the foil and closed it again.  I took the water off of the tray and passed everything else over to one of my fellow team members who also got an upgraded ticket.  I went to sleep and didn’t wake up again until the captain came on to say we were scheduled to land in Atlanta in 40 minutes.

At that point they were serving breakfast so I flagged the flight attendant down and asked to be served since he had already passed my row.  I ate the biscuit and jelly and attempted to eat the chicken salad sandwich.  I did take the water and drank it slowly.

As soon as my feet hit US soil a small part of me rejoiced.  It was an interesting feeling.  I was sad to have that small chapter of my life done, rejoicing because it was one step closer to my bed and yet another part dreading the 4+ hour car ride home.  We made it through all of the check points, customs, etc with no problem.  We collected our bags and met our church family at the doors.  It was so nice to hear English and see familiar faces.  I enjoyed my time in India but there truly is no place like home.

Part of the way home, we stopped at a Wendy’s for a burger.  I just couldn’t stomach the thought of eating so I just got a drink.  We got back on the road and at one point had to take a detour because of road construction.  Outside of that, we had an uneventful trip home.  The last twenty miles were the longest.  Finally we reached our home church, gathered our bags and headed home.  We decided we would leave our bags in the garage and deal with them in the morning.  The needed to air out anyway from being in India for two weeks.  I took a nice, hot shower and then went to bed.

By this time, our team had been traveling, without a bed for 53 hours.  Needless to say, that was a very long awaited moment.

I woke up the next morning at 5:30 I felt like death warmed over.  I made the decision to stay up until 8 to see if I could get chiropractor appointments for both of us.  Our backs and joints were hurting so badly.  I wasn’t able to get in with our chiropractor so we called the local one that we used to go to before insurance changed.  We made appointments for both.  We made one for that day (the7th of Jan) and then another one with our chiropractor for the following weeks.  I needed it so bad.  I figured if I could get my neck in line, maybe all of the pressure and congestion would go away.  While it did help it didn’t solve everything.  I had planned to go to a walk in care clinic afterward but decided to give the adjustment and massage time to work. The therapist who worked on me for an hour said I felt as bad as some of her better MS patients.  I don’t doubt it.  I felt better but far from all better.

By the time I got home my mother-in-law had gotten to my house with my boys.  It was so good to see them but I couldn’t fully enjoy the moment because I felt so crappy.  At 2:00pm, I had to go take a nap.  I slept until the next morning(8th of Jan).

I woke up and knew I had to go to the walk in clinic.  I was there when the doors opened.  They did a urine annalysis, took two viles of blood and gave me a bag of fluids.  It took them three times to finally get into my veins.  Yuck.  Man did that hurt!  I did feel a little bit better after the fluids but was still far from better.  I was given instructions to rest as much as possible and to wait for their call the next day (9th of Jan) which would show my results from the blood tests.  As of noon on the 9th I still hadn’t heard from them.  I am really not concerned because after I got home from there, I took their advice and went back to bed.  I didn’t wake up until 2am on the 9th.  That’s a Friday.  For the first time in DAYS I finally felt a little bit better.  As a matter of fact I got up and made breakfast and even had two of our team memebers over to help us eat it all.  I actually ate a full plate of food!

Finally I can say I am on the mend.  However, as you can see I have had a really full, stressful and sick filled last few days.  I am just not sure I can relay everything I’d like to about the days of our trip right now.  Hopefully I will be able to work on it more and more as the days go on.  Please pray for me and the rest of the team to recover 100%.  We’ve been through so much in the last few days.

Cheers,
Andrea

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a Mission: Atlanta International Airport

This is going to be short and sweet so that I save battery power.

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We left Manchester today, got stuck in traffic around Chattanooga and sometime in there a crown popped off of one of my molars.  Yea! Then we stopped for Chic-fil-a for lunch.  That wasn’t the easiest thing to eat without a molar…considering the post that was left was sensitive to say the least.  We hit up a Walgreens to get some Fixadent to see if that would help.  It didn’t.

We got to the airport with a 2 hour delay and found out we would then miss our connecting flight all together.  No worries, we get to spend nearly 8 free hours in London.  God willing, I may be able to find a dentist to get at least a temporary crown put on my tooth, or get my old one put back on.

Happy birthday to my friend on the trip who’s birthday is today, another one on the team who has a brtihday tomorrow and then a third still on the trip who’s birthday is the day after!  Woop!  Party in London…Kim Kardashian style!  Invite all your friends and party in another county!  EEEEee-owwww!

I am confident, even with all of the mix up in scheduling that God has us exactly where he wants us.  I am looking very forward to the unplanned (by us) appointments and agendas.

Thanks for continued prayer.  I need to finish drinking my Starbucks and eating my muffin.  BTW:  Thanks, Nancy, for the friend rice!

Cheers,
Andrea

God’s Little Pumpkins Need Our Help!

Last week, a group of the India vision team put our heads together to figure out how we were going to get the items the boys at Shiloh Children’s Home and our friends serving full time needed before we got on the plane.  There were several people who asked us if there were things we needed for the trip.  The most logical way to connect those wanting to help with the needs was make a pumpkin patch, of course!  It will function much like an Angel Tree that is setup at Christmastime.

IMG_20141014_162640_951[1]IMG_20141014_162621_311[1]On this board, we put one pumpkin to represent each boy at Shiloh with his clothing sizes.  We are asking people at church to pick a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch and shop for the orphan listed there.  All clothing gifts are requested to be turned in by November 30th.  The vines on the big pumpkins will have pictures of each boy at Shiloh to give it a personal touch. When I get updated pictures, I will post them.

One of our teammates is a teacher in one of the local public schools and is in charge of BETA Club.  She presented this project to them as a service project and they accepted the challenge!  She thought she might get 15 pumpkins claimed but because she had the potential to get rid of more, I made duplicate pumpkins to the ones on the board at church for a total of 40.  Boy were we wrong!  Between the club and other 6th grade students, 42 pumpkins were claimed!  Wow WOW wow!  I am anxious to hear how it goes in the next coming days as the 7th and 8th graders have been invited to participate.  I have supplied her with a total of 80 pumpkins.  Should all 80 pumpkins find homes, each child will be getting a shirt, pants, shoes, underwear and socks.  Isn’t that amazing?

Another teammate is a teacher at a local elementary school and wanted to get involved, too!  I supplied her with 43 pumpkins with needs which our friends living in India requested.  Kool-Aid, taco bell seasoning packets, Hidden Valley Ranch Mix Packets and such.  I kept a few to try to get covered and to give to yet another teammate.

If you are interested in purchasing items for the full time servants in India, please comment below!

If you are interested in purchasing items for the full time servants in India, please comment below!

I have made over 160 pumpkins.  With God’s help, we will have all kinds of goodies to deliver in December!  I can’t wait to tell you about the activities on Sunday regarding the pumpkins at 50 Cent Auctions.

Cheers,
Andrea

KIMBO’SWISH First Annual Fall Festival Recap

In my last blog post I made mention of the vendor event that I was getting ready for which was on Saturday, October 18th.  I heard about this even through the 50 Cent Auction group on Facebook that I have talked about several times.  One Sunday afternoon, a woman by the  name of Christen came to pick up her items that she won from me on the auction and handed me a flyer for an event she was planning.  I asked if she had vendor booth spaces still available because if she did I’d like to bring my paper bead jewelry.

Coil bracelet which was on sale last night at the Trunk Show.

Coil bracelet  made with glass beads, metal beads and paper beads.

After a couple of weeks, things were settled and her event was put on my calendar.  I was super excited because her goal was to raise support for her soon to be non-profit for the middle Tennessee area.  Basically, KIMBO’SWISH is an organization who gives young kids with terminal illnesses their wish of meeting their favorite character.  At the event, for example, Elmo and Anna and Elsa from Frozen made an appearance. My son was in HEAVEN!  More about that later.  This event was specifically put together to finish raising the needed fees to obtain her non-profit status with Uncle Sam.  Anything raised after that would go to help a little boy’s parents with travel expenses, I believe, so he can get his next cancer treatment. The night before the event, I was talking to a teammate about my situation and she agreed to work my booth with me.  At vendor events a person needs two people at the booths so that there is someone to cover restroom and lunch breaks. I was so relieved that Nancy would be helping me. Especially when I woke up the next morning an hour before I was supposed to be at the church to set up! I still had to shower, get around, get my 3 year old up and get him around, get a few things at Wal-Mart and breakfast for both of us. Did I mention my son had a caugh that wouldn’t stop? Not a good morning. I called Nancy and thankfully she was running absolutely on time so she was able to get our spot and tell the organizers what was going on. When I pulled in, she was standing there and I couldn’t help but throw my arms around her and get choked up. She was my strength and stability in that moment that I absolutely needed. If not for her, I don’t think I could have made it through the day. What a blessing she was to me. We hauled in all of our things and got settled in. Acutally first, Nancy saved the day again by going to the drugstore to get some cough medicine for Peyton. That REALLY helped him.

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Everyone wave to Nancy!  I’m pretty sure she was listening to Joseph Pope’s second song.  More on that later.

My next hero(s) was Keri. Years ago when I started childcare in my home, her kids were my first ones to come to me fulltime. My goodness how they have grown. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw them. She also brought her teenager, Devin, and his girlfriend. They helped me so much by taking Peyton to the park to play, to play games at the event and even to get his face painted. Keri has done such a good job with her kids. She has SO much to be proud of, that’s for sure. At this event there were vendors, as I have said, but there was also live music, games for the kids, a silent auction, face painting and of course special appearances by popular characters! The first live musician to take the stand was a boy by the name of Joseph Pope. I believe I am getting it right by saying he is 12 years old and just a few months ago, he taught himself how to play the saxophone! This kid was AWESOME! His first number was “I’m Glad You Came,” by The Wanted. Wow…I literally stood there with tears in my eyes. The kid was awesome! His second number was “Happy.” Again he absolutely rocked the house! I wish there was a YouTube video or something of his performance because I know you would be as impressed as I was. An hour or so into the event, an announcement was made that Elmo would be joining the event soon. I didn’t tell Peyton about it until he was walking in the front door of the gymnasium. When he walked in and was being announced, I turned him around so he could see him and his eyes lit up so bright! He was in awe that Elmo was actually there! He wasn’t really sure what to do with himself other than to open his eyes and mouth as wide as they could go. I asked if he wanted to go see him and he took off running full speed across the gym to him. When I say running, I mean knees high, arms pumping, the whole nine yards. When I got over to him and pulled my phone out to take a picture, this is what I captured:

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When Elmo made it over to our booth, he wrapped his arms around him for another huge hug!

Sorry its blurry!

Sorry its blurry!

He had such a great time. You would not believe the people God had in store for me to meet. One of the first people to come up to my booth was a woman who was in town from Alabama. She was helping her daughter with her booth or was volunteering or something. I told her about our mission trip and our long term plans. I also told her about Loft 218, the non-profit that the children’s home and life skills training center will be built under. She shared with me that her church is very missions minded and gave me a card with her pastor’s contact information on it. She encouraged us to call him to see if we could speak there one Sunday to gain support and prayers for what God has called us to do. Wow…I was so blown away that an event I almost didn’t make it to, God had this big of an appointment waiting for me. There were other people who came up and spoke to me about my jewelry, asked questions on how I got into it, what we would be doing in Rajasthan and such. I was so encouraged by the words of affirmation and encouragement I got from that crowd. One woman sat down and talked to me for probably 20 minutes about how God will direct my hands when making jewelry and my feet during the vision trip. How encouraging! I have said all along, financial support is obviously important where mission trips are concerned, but sometimes moral and emotional support are even more important. God proved this to me again at that event. An hour or so after Elmo came out, an announcement was made that Elsa and Anna were on their way to spend time with the kids and take pictures, too! Peyton, at the time, was at the playground with the teenagers so he didn’t get to see them walk in. As he was walking through the doors from playing, Keri was walking out of the restrooms and saw him. Because we had talked earlier about how excited he will be when they come out, she knelt down and turned him so he could see who was there. Oh he was over the moon excited to see them. He went and stood in line to meet them. I, again, walked over there with my phone to capture the moment. Soooo sweet. He was actually a little bashful to walk up to them but with my help he was good to go.

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By the end of the day, I was so filled up and encouraged and blown away by all of the provisions God had given me that day. Between Friday and Saturday, I was pretty sure things couldn’t get much better! That evening, an update came up on the KIMBO’SWISH page on facebook:

WE DID IT!!!! We reached our goal of $1200 today! We made $1000 at the benefit and the remaining $200 was donated this evening! GOD IS GREAT & FULL OF SURPRISES…. AMEN. Thank you to ALL that cam out and volunteered their time, energy and patients today. What a true blessing you were! A SPECIAL THANK YOU GOES OUT TO JOSEPH POPE, TONY FROST & BRENDA LYNN ALLEN FOR THE AMAZING MUSIC…WOW! It was all wonderful!!!!

Not only did God provide me with serious encouragement, but he provided in a big way for KIMBO’SWISH! That is just awesome, isn’t it! Monday she was able to meet with her attorney to get the ball rolling for her official non-profit status! Go God! At one point, Christen brought attention to a table with a tree in the middle of it. Around the tree, there were framed pictures and stories of the kids KIMBO’SWISH has help in the last nine months. She highlighted each child and encouraged people to read each one at their leisure. How exciting! One of the boys represented on the table was at the event and was said to be in TOTAL REMISSION! Go GOD!  His name is Hunter.  I actually just talked to his mom on facebook and she said that he is almost ready to hit the TWO YEAR MARK!!  You can follow his progress here!

Here Hunter is with Elmo!  November 7th will be his remission anniversary!

Here Hunter is with Elmo! November 7th will be his remission anniversary!

Before I go, I want to draw your attention to one of the little girls who will be getting help from this awesome organization. Her name is Zoey and the boys and I have been praying for her for a couple weeks now. She was born with several birth defects, one which affects her little sweet heart. She has already had three surgeries on it and is in need of a fourth one. This surgery needs to be done in Boston. The cost associated with this surgery and the travel expenses thereof are pretty hefty. If you feel lead to donate any amount to her medical expenses, her family has set up a GoFundMe account for this purpose. On that page, you can also read more about her there. Stay tuned for my blog about my time at the 50 Cent Auction.  Even more God appointed moments!

Cheers,
Andrea

How to Get Answers to Your Prayers

Susan is on the left, myself in the middle and my friend Liz is on the right.

Susan is on the left, myself in the middle and my friend Liz is on the right.

Andy and Susan Lepper were in town this weekend!  The last time we saw them was clear back in April when they came to speak to our church about their children’s home in Alwar, Rajasthan in the country of India.  The day after they left, we agreed to go on the vision trip to India to seek a location and pray for God’s direction regarding full time service there. We will be spending a few days with their boys when we travel in December!  It was SOooo good to see them again!  We spoke of their expectations of us while we are there, what we have seen God do in our lives and prayed for each other.

Truth be told, I was SO looking forward to their visit.  I had been for a while, but I had a vendor event on Saturday that I was stressing about.  I didn’t have the inventory that I would have liked to have had.  My organza gift bags weren’t sewn.  I had to pack up my supplies.  I was possibly short a helper for my table without a replacement in sight.  My youngest son had cough that was marginally helped by Claritin but was still nasty nasty. I was super stressed out between those things and small quarrels amongst my family.   I seriously considered staying at home and working all things out and, to be honest, wallow in my self-pity of things not going the way I thought they should.  I would have missed out on hugs, conversation and best of all hearing my three-year-old pray and be used by God!

Susan had expressed her desire to be a biological mother.  She and Andy have forty boys in India whom they provide for daily and whom they love very much (Check them  out at www.nolongerorphans.org ).  Her heart’s desire, however, is to carry a child of her own.  I shared with her Matthew 18:10:

“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.”

I have seen three times where I have had my children pray for people to be with child and God answered their prayers.  Let me be clear, it is God’s will that we fill the Earth.  When we, especially kids, pray in faith, according to His will, we will see mountains move!  I experienced this first hand.  Jackson wanted another sibling and set to praying.  God changed my entire body, He changed my cycle even.  The day I got pregnant should have been a safe day where natural family planning is concerned.  Ha, well, on July 4th of 2010 I got the unexpected pink + sign on a home pregnancy test.  Jackson was THRILLED, I was confused, Josh was panicking to say the least.  I can imagine God was filled with joy seeing Jackson praising him with excitement.  “God answered my prayers!  He actually listened!”  It built both of our faith for sure.

Then there is Gage’s preschool teacher. We prayed for her every night as a part of his bedtime routine.  When we returned to school after summer break, she was pregnant!

A couple in our church had been trying for years and were told they would never have their own by doctors.  Their son is around the 6 month mark I believe.

Back to Susan.  She was telling me how she believed that Matthew 18:10 was true because her Papa at her orphanage when she was growing up used to tell her that all the time. I asked her if Peyton could pray with her and she agreed.  Here’s how it went:

ME: Peyton, Mrs. Susan really wants God to put a baby in her tummy.  Would you pray and ask God to put a baby in her tummy?

Peyton:  Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. (If you know Peyton on a personal level, you know how that sounded) *Climbs up in my lap next to Susan*

ME: Ok, let’s pray. *Folded hands, head bowed*

Peyton: Dear God, please put two babies in Mrs. Susan’s tummy.  Thank you.  Amen.  (I am laughing at this point…where does he come up with these things?)

Susan: Why are you laughing?

ME: Did you hear what he said?

Susan: NO, What did he say?

I repeated what he prayed to her.

Susan: *Stunned face*  THAT’s what I have been praying for!!

I am speechless at this point.  She didn’t say anything remotely close to twins in our conversation.  She even told me the names she has picked out.  There was no way Peyton overheard anything in our conversation.  He just prayed what he felt.  I am so convinced that God will provide in this way for the Leppers.

I am so thankful that I got off of my rear and went to visit with friends.   I am so excited to meet them again on their home field.  I am excited to see the work that God accomplishes through these friendships.  Not to mention the faith built by holding each other up in prayer and seeing things come to fruition.

Cheers,
Andrea

PS: I can’t wait to see the kurtis you pick out Susan!  And I promise not to attempt to pronounce that word without your language coaching.  No need for profanity here.