Culture, Family, Farm, Religion, Summer

Running on Empty

I think I’m well on my way to becoming the Maysville Call Center. My grandparents keep walking in with phones that won’t work. Last week, my grandma walked into the office holding her flip phone that had finally died. It just so happened that on the same day, her wi-fi went out, leaving her completely unable to contact anyone. So, she walked in, needing to use the phone. Of which I was able to offer her 5 options. A few days later, my grandpa walks in. Carrying his own flip phone (haven’t all of these disappeared yet?) Says: my phone won’t work, can I use one of yours? I didn’t even ask any questions. I just handed him the cordless and let him make his calls.

VBS week has me feeling like the kid in the blue. I think I’m having fun, but I’m also slightly terrified and confused. Basically, I’m just rolling with life at this point. Should I mention that I took orders for 3,596 shirts last week? Actually, I didn’t. I took orders for more than that. But, I stopped counting there. Because I got a little too overwhelmed to even keep count any more.


I planned VBS in my usual fashion. We talked about it a few weeks before in May and decided that the second week in June would be good. So, I waited until the first week in June to remember that it was the first week in June and we had tentatively planned to start at the beginning of the second week in June. Everything got lined out really fast. AKA: other people took over and assumed their roles and I hastily put together our schedule and it came together.

Scavenger hunting


Treasure hunters

So, we’re in VBS week. And we’re printing 4000+ shirts. And, it just so happens, we don’t have water. Not in the Al Gore, global warming, type of way. More in the our well system isn’t really working type of way. Apparently, when you have a hole in a water pipe, it doesn’t matter how much water you have access to. The water isn’t getting from point A to point B. Calling a company to come out and fix it was helpful too. They said they would come, then called the next day saying that someone had an emergency in a tiny town in Missouri, so they wouldn’t be back in town for a few days.

I don’t know what this other person was going through or what constitutes an emergency these days, but I feel like me not having access to drinking water is a little bit of an emergency too. Not to mention that we have no water to make coffee with. I mean, that seems a little emergent. Yes?

So: VBS week + piles of shirts + no water. Don’t worry, I issued an emergency bulletin to all (3) of our staff that read: “Warning Notice: Skyline Printing and Merchandising is officially in a state of emergency as water levels are reaching an all time low. Please be advised that conditions may worsen. Updates will be provided as this situation unfolds.” I think I was the one who was the most amused with my antics.

Luckily, a different company came to the rescue and fixed the water situation the next day. We’re back up and running. Literally.

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America, Culture, Missions, Religion, Uncategorized

More

They always say that as a teacher, you learn more than your students. Which I never really thought about until I started teaching.

Let me preface this by saying that I never wanted to be a teacher. It’s not really in my nature. I have friends (a lot of friends actually) who are teachers. They are all talented, beautiful people and are brightening the futures of our children every day.

That’s not me. A classroom full of little minds to mold was never my dream. However, sometimes we are put into roles in life that we aren’t necessarily called to and that’s how I found myself teaching at church. I’ve taught the younger kids for a long time, but recently, I moved up (or down, depending on how you look at it) in the rankings and I’m now teaching our Wednesday night youth group, which consists of jr. high and high school.

I feel the need to mention that while I was moved to this position, I was still not given van driving privileges. My brother told them that I didn’t need to be in charge of driving a van full of kids, so they put him on the list instead. So, I promptly planned a youth trip to the corn maze and made him drive us.

Back to teaching, though. I don’t know who seemed to think I was qualified for this. I rarely have lesson plans and spend most of my time talking about what I want to talk about. So, they just listen to me ramble. The cool thing about not having lesson plans is that you can truly experience the Lord speaking through you. That’s such an abstract idea, until it happens and then you know, without a doubt, what that feels like.

Last week, I was worn out. I had just gotten off work, rushed over to church (late as usual) and had absolutely nothing to teach about. I didn’t have a Bible story in mind, no wisdom to impart. And I had 15 crazy teens who were loud and rambunctious and I just didn’t really think I could handle it. But, once I got them calmed down, we started talking.

It’s kinda magical when you get teens talking about serious subjects and hear their ideas. (Almost) all of their goofy, awkward, wild personalities fade into the background and you can see who they are as people.

We’ve been talking about our relationships with God. About what we’ve been told about God versus what we really know and believe for ourselves about who God is in our lives and what roles He fills for us.

I told them that I had always been told that God was faithful. I was raised in church, I’ve been told and taught a lot of things about who God is. But until I experience that for myself, do I truly believe that or is it just an idea in my head? Until I experienced God’s faithfulness, I didn’t really know what that meant.

The night that I had nothing to teach, we began by talking about how we view ourselves versus how God views us. A lot of the kids that we have at church come from hard situations, where one or both parents aren’t really in the picture. I had read a quote earlier in the week about how kids become what they are told that they are. So much of who we feel like we are or what we feel we’re capable of is based simply on what we’ve been told we are, what we’ve been told we can do.

As I began talking about this, I shared with them from Psalm 139, where David is talking about how the Lord knew us before we were born, how He planned out all our days before we even existed. That sounds like a God who loves us quite a bit. But as I looked at the faces of these kids, I knew that some of them were hearing this for the first time. I knew that some of them hadn’t been told that they were loved very much. We went on to talk about how if God knew us before we were born, that meant that none of us were accidental. Whether our parents had planned for us to be here or not, we had a Heavenly Father that planned out every single one of our days. The looks on a few faces made my heart hurt a little bit. To feel unwanted or like an accident is tragic. But, how much greater does the love of the Lord wash down over that situation?
These were definitely not my words that were being poured out that night. I can’t take claim to any of that. I showed up as an empty, tired vessel with nothing to give. But, the Lord always supplies.

They say you learn more as the teacher than as the student. Yes, I’m learning the differences between a concert trombone and a marching trombone. I’m learning about soccer, the lifecycle of lice, and about ninjas (yes, all real conversations, I can’t make this stuff up). But, really, I’m learning so much more. More about myself. More about them. And more about God and how very much He loves us. Way more than I ever bargained for.

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Asia, Culture, Food, Missions, Travel

Until the Whole World Hears

I posted my 50th blog the other day. I had no idea I had posted that many. I feel like my 50th post should’ve been something monumental or moving. But, instead, it was about popcorn. That’s probably a pretty accurate description of my writing though, so it seems appropriate. After being alerted that it was post #50, I took a little trip down memory lane and read back on some of my earliest posts. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t usually read things after I’ve written them. It’s just a quirk of mine. But, I wanted to go back to remember where I started.
This has been such a fun (and funny) journey for me. Reading my first posts reminded me why I started writing and how much I enjoy it. It had me laughing and remembering stories that I didn’t even write about. The funny thing about these stories is that a lot of them aren’t monumental happenings. They aren’t about the major stories of my life. To me, they are the little things, the details that weave the bigger stories together, the daily things that often get lost in the mix. Those are the stories I love to tell. And those are the stories I love to read, so here’s to the next 50!
Four years ago, I was in Micronesia on my second medical mission trip. (If you don’t know where this is, don’t worry, neither did I! We had planned to take this trip to the Dominican Republic and instead got saddled with the Micronesia trip. It’s a tiny tiny tiny set of islands in the South Pacific, by the way.)
Landing in the Land of the Islands

Landing in the Land of the Islands

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Three years ago, I was in Armenia on my third trip. (Interesting fact: we could see the mountain that Noah’s Ark landed on from where we were in Armenia. The mountain {Bible trivia: anyone know the name of it?} is in Turkey, but we were in the Ararat {that’s it!} Valley, so we could see it from there. Another interesting fact is that I skipped my first week of senior classes in college to go on this trip. It was totally worth it.)
Cloud covered Mt. Ararat

Cloud covered Mt. Ararat

One of the many monasteries we visited on that trip

One of the many monasteries we visited on that trip

And, two years ago, I was in Cambodia on my fifth trip. Now, I’m gearing up for number 9. I never realized it before but I think I see a pattern that has been established. People always ask me where my favorite place is. I never have a good answer for that. They’re all so diverse, both in geography and culture, and I went to all of them at different points in my life, so they all hold memories from those times. (Like trying to do the homework I was missing from class while trying to soak in the scenes of the Armenian countryside)
The other question people always ask is what’s the weirdest food I’ve eaten. And, I can answer that one (although this is a really long list…)  It was in Cambodia and it was called balut, which is apparently quite a delicacy. It’s a half developed duck egg that has been cooked and it is served over rice. So, I tried it. Because when in Cambodia.. Right?
Balut

Balut

I should also note that when they sell these eggs, you can buy them according to the stage of their development. So, you can buy a less developed egg (which maybe wouldn’t have formed feathers or a beak yet) then scale up from there on development. This one that was cooked for us was a late stage of development and very close to hatching, which they said was not ideal. Here’s what it looked like after it was mixed up and ready to eat. (I feel I should mention that this was Matt’s idea, the guy holding the bowl, and I blame him completely for bringing about these circumstances. He specifically requested this delicacy from our hosts, and they went out and tracked down the eggs and cooked them for us.)
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Cambodia has been on my heart lately because there are some really neat things happening there right now. When I was there in 2013, they had the ceremony which established the first church in Cambodia for our particular missions group. It had been a nine year process of building and growing, and it was such a blessing to be there to witness the establishment. Here’s a picture of our missions group with all the founding members. Can you pick me out of the crowd?
First BMA Church of Cambodia

First BMA Church of Cambodia

Currently, the church is ordaining a pastor and the missionaries there will be turning more of their focus towards work in a remote village on the river. This village is called In Village and we got to visit when I was there. When I say this village is remote, I definitely mean it. It is only accessible by boat, so our group of over 20 loaded up in these rickety boats and let a 9 year old motor us across the not so gentle waters. (I’m not sure if you can tell from this picture, so let me detail it. There is a 9 year old in front who is the driver, and one of the boys jumped out of the boat to get the motor free of weeds while going across the river. Jake is in this boat and I am standing on the shore because I came across in the earlier boat. No big deal.)
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I am told that they received official papers from Provincial Cults and Religion to be able to construct buildings in the village, which will serve as a project center, place of worship and living quarters for a couple of young men who will be working there. This is a huge step forward for the work in the In village. On our trip there, we worked out of the “community center”. Which was essentially the place they met for the animal sacrifice ceremonies. The jawbones of various animals nailed up inside the building were the first thing to give that particular detail away. Now, they will have a place of their own, where they can work and serve.
Me and a Khmer lady in the In Village in 2013

Me and a Khmer lady in the In Village in 2013

Not very many people know anything of Christianity there. Buddhism reigns supreme in this region of the world. In fact, in another village we visited on our trip, one of the members of our team asked a local man if he knew who Jesus was. The man replied that there was no one named Jesus in their village, but we might find the man we were looking for in the next village over. He had no idea who we were talking about, had never even heard of Him.
Sleeping Buddha

Sleeping Buddha

Cambodia was my first exposure to Southeast Asia. It was a whole different world, for so many reasons. It opened my eyes to needs, both spiritual and physical, that I wasn’t even aware existed. It’s that same hidden hunger I started this blog talking about. When I began traveling for missions, I had no idea what I was in for, where I would go, the people I would meet. When I started writing, I had no idea what stories I would have to tell.  50 posts in and I feel like I haven’t even begun.
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America, Funny, Religion, Summer

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Why are there animal crackers in my bed? I shouldn’t even have to ask this question. Are they mine? No. Apparently we operate on a what’s mine is yours mentality around here and that goes for my bed. And everything else I brought. I don’t know why my bunk is the chosen cool spot for all the eight year olds to hang out but I think we need to change that.
Cool Kids

Cool Kids

So, let me just give you a glimpse of what my day has been like. I had to wake 9 little girls up at 6:30 in the morning and get them to breakfast by 7:15. It was pouring down rain. Everyone wants to hold my hand. I have a rain jacket (which I am wearing) and no umbrella. We have a ten minute walk in aforementioned rain. By the time we get there, everyone is soaked. We sit down for breakfast and one of our little boys taps me on the shoulder to tell me he spilled his cereal and milk, which turned out to be all over the floor of the cafeteria. I tell him to go get napkins and he brings back four, which is not going to come close to cleaning it all up. We finally get everyone cleaned up and fed. As we’re walking back to our cabin to make our beds, our littlest girl comes up carrying one of her sandals and tells me it’s broken. I told her to put on another pair. To which she replied, these are the only shoes I brought. So, I walk into the cabin to figure out what other little girls have shoes (preferably dry, but at this point I’m not planning on being picky) she could borrow. And I’m greeted at the door by one of our older girls, telling me that someone left a Popsicle in the refrigerator instead of the freezer and it melted everywhere. To which my only response was: what color was it?
Camp, I gotta love ya!
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America, Animals, Farm, Religion

Zoo Crew

Everyone keeps asking me if I have a turtle. And by everyone, I really mean all the little kids I know. There’s a festival in a neighboring town that has a turtle race, so turtles are a hot commodity right now.

Do I look like an animal person to you? Probably. And I actually am, I do really like animals. Turtles aren’t exactly my thing but I’ve had pretty much every pet imaginable. I went through nearly a dozen rabbits growing up. I had chicks and ducks, guinea pigs and a hamster. I had a cat named Sarah and a dog named Sarah. The dog was a boy, but I didn’t care and neither did he. One of my favorite dogs was a Bassett Hound that showed up on our front porch one Spring. I had always wanted a Bassett and when Sally showed up, I said she was the one I had prayed for and God dropped her on my doorstep. Unfortunately, I didn’t specify in my prayers that she needed to be able to see or hear. Because she was deaf and almost completely blind. Loyal as ever, though, and so sweet. This is her, in a cone the vet made her wear for awhile. No, this is not a joke.

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I think I’m getting my payback on the animals though. I don’t usually pick any kids up for church, but last Wednesday night I got a call from a mom saying that she needed me to stop by. It was right in town so I swung by and got them, no big deal.

What I didn’t know was that when we got to church, a couple of their cousins showed up and needed to ride home with the kids I brought. I have a car that seats 5. Let’s do the math. Jake was with me, so we were 2 + 2 kids I picked up + 2 cousins. So 6 in 5 seats.

Again, no big deal. If I remember correctly, my record was 8 of us in 5 seats during college. I wasn’t really that concerned. I told the kids it was fine, I’d take them, and we’d make it work. But, when it came time to leave, the little girl came up and kindly informed me that she and her brother had brought their rabbits with them and they would need a ride too. When I asked where the rabbits were, they said, on the church bus, which had picked them (and their rabbits) up that night. So, I went and had a word with the church bus driver, namely my dad.

Alli and Elsa

Alli and Elsa

When I asked him why Alli and Bobby had been allowed to bring their rabbits, he said they had come out of the house with the cages and said they had to go. So go they did.

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To update, let’s do this math again. Me + Jake + 2 kids + 2 cousins + 2 rabbits. So, as we are walking to the car, rabbits in tow, Justin (one of the two original kids I picked up) said while we were on the playground after church, he’d found a toad and he was keeping it as a pet. I’m in the middle of arranging how to fit all these children and rabbits in my car, so how could I say no to a toad at that point? Cherry on the top of the proverbial cake.

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Well, Alli hates toads, but Maddie loves them, so I made Maddie sit in the middle, Alli had her rabbit, Justin had his toad, and Bobby insisted on sitting up front with Jake and his rabbit. Actually Bobby (who is 5) really wanted to drive the car, but sitting up front and turning the key to start the car got him close enough to the action.

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We were fine for the first two minutes. And when I say fine, what I really mean is Bobby cranked my stereo and managed to roll down the windows, before Jake got control of the situation and kept all our eardrums from bursting. After that, the meltdown happened. Which Jake decided was worth taking a picture of. He’s a great co-pilot, as you can tell.

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While this is going on in the backseat and Jake is busy capturing it and I’m trying to drive, Bobby has his hand on the gearshift and keeps asking me, can I move this, can I move this? I was just waiting for him to throw us into neutral, causing this whole escapade to be complete. But, he didn’t. And, Jake eventually calmed the backseat meltdown and all animals and people made it home safely.

Final count: me + Jake + 2 kids + 2 cousins + 2 rabbits + 1 toad

I think I set a new record.

{Epilogue: I have been informed that Bobby’s rabbit has since passed from this life. He made a good pet and from my own experience, was the best passenger I had in the car that night. He will be missed. RIP Michael the rabbit.}

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Religion, Travel

Where’d You Come From?

I’ve been embroidering hats for days now. That’s basically all I do. Answer emails and embroider. Which isn’t a bad gig, all considered. I think I’ve embroidered this RTMG logo close to 1000 times. In fact, I’m sure of it.

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One question I always get asked by people when I go somewhere: where are you from? And, the follow-up question: so what’s Arkansas like? Well, in my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth (our corner of the state, at least). I mean, I’m probably just slightly biased, seeing how it’s been my home for 23 years now. But, I’m pretty sure there’s some truth to my statement.

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There are two pictures of Arkansas that I can paint though. My best option is the quaint, quiet Southern charm. Like the fact that every Sunday, my grandpa stands up at the pulpit to preach at our small Baptist church.

photo 1

Or, the fact that I am part of the 6th generation in our family to go to that small Baptist church. Or that we currently have farm fresh eggs in our fridge. That my parents were taught by the same teachers that taught me in school. That our family farm is over 100 years old. That we live in a place with a stretch of blue skies and fields with cows grazing in them. That’s the Arkansas that I like to tell people about.

photo 2

But, what about hillbillies and do you wear shoes? Well, there’s that Arkansas too. Like the fact that there’s currently a piece of exercise equipment on the front porch (very temporarily, but still: exercise equipment outside = the ultimate redneck). Or, that I saw this guy in traffic the other day.

photo-4 copy

Or the fact that my mom was driving home from work last week and saw a drunk driver. On a horse. Apparently, a woman had a little too much to drink and decided to saddle up and head to town. Later, driving by, there was a wreck. I guess she got confused on which way she was going and ran into a car that was driving slowly by. A drunken horse wreck. Yep, I guess that’s Arkansas too.

When I came by this wreck, I saw one of the guys on the local fire department directing traffic. And I said: I hope he’s at church on Sunday (because in Arkansas, you go to church with everyone in town) so that I can get the whole story. But, lo and behold, who showed up on the front porch on Saturday morning? The same guy. Because in Arkansas, people stop by for a visit without telling you they’re coming. I love that about small towns. No need to call and see if you’ll be home. You’ll be there. So, I got all the details I needed about the drunk lady on the horse. Lesson learned: don’t drink and ride. Oh, Arkansas, I gotta love ya!

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Asia, Religion, Travel

Salt

Misunderstandings are always a little funny. The father of my friend was trying to tell us about a pastry we should try and Jake thought he was telling us about shoes (to be fair, it was a French word, so it did sound a little bit like shoes). I was just trying to figure out why they would be selling shoes at a bakery.

Anyway, yesterday, we headed to our first Korean graduation. My friend, Boryung, graduated from her university and invited us to the ceremony. Here she is:

Bo's Graduation Day

Bo’s Graduation Day

While we were waiting at a subway stop, I noticed some women handing out brochures, and I brushed it off as another sale ad for one of their many malls. We were sitting on a low wall, soaking in the sunshine, and finally, one of them took notice of us. She handed me a packet and brochure and at first, I thought she was trying to sell me something. Everything was in Korean (both her spoken words and all the material she gave me) so it took me a minute to figure out what was going on. Upon looking at the packet, I realized she was witnessing to me.

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I don’t know many Korean words, but I am familiar with the words for God and Jesus, among a few others. As I studied the pictures while she talked, I understood that she was sharing the true Gospel. She knew almost no English, but she didn’t let that stop her. She was very nice and in an effort to make conversation with her, Jake asked (in Korean) what he thought was “what’s your name?” After her flustered response, he didn’t go any further. I finally showed her the cross necklace I wear, and made some motions to let her know that I was a Christian and she seemed very satisfied, said what I assume was “God Bless” and went on her way. When she left, Jake said, I don’t know why she didn’t answer when I asked her what her name was? To which I responded, you didn’t ask her what her name was, you asked her how much it costs? (Again, I don’t know much Korean, but I know that market phrase in many different languages)

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We had been to church with Boryung this past Sunday and I had talked to my grandma on the phone before we left for the service. She had asked: will you get anything out of the service since it will all be in Korean? And, to answer her question, it is a little bit difficult. I’ve been to a lot of church services in a lot of different languages and it takes some effort to engage in what is going on. However, I am a firm believer that The Lord breaks beyond the barriers of language and I was overcome at this particular church service on Sunday. As I sat there with 300+ Korean believers, I couldn’t help but think of how the Gospel had spread. Presbyterians sent many missionaries here throughout the 19th and 20th century and Christianity spread. Where would this country be without those missionaries? Look at the impact their work is still having decades later. Today, South Korea is second only to the United States in the amount of Christian missionaries that it sends out. In Matthew 5, believers are called to be the Light of the World and the Salt of the Earth. Those Presbyterian missionaries took that call seriously, and because of their work, the Gospel continues to spread.

PS, did I mention that Jake was an honorary graduate, earning his degree in Foreign Studies, yesterday?

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