Saturday, July 26, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to Ohio...

I would like to tell you about my trip from Maracaibo to Ohio because it was not an ordinary trip- God performed a miracle that day.

I was scheduled to leave Maracaibo at 7:00am and arrive in Miami at 10:25am. I then had almost 2 1/2 hours before leaving Miami to go to Ohio. This is a good amount of time because of everything you need to do upon arriving in Miami from a foreign country.

Just in case you have never come through Miami from a foreign country, let me tell you what you need to do.
  1. Go through passport countrol- get passport checked (I have had problems here before with the many stamps from Venezuela I have in my passport)
  2. Pick up your luggage
  3. Go through customs where they can choose you to go through luggage inspection (of which you will be standing in a long line for a long time) or they can let you pass without inspection
  4. Recheck your luggage at the airline luggage checking location
  5. Find your concourse for your flight
  6. Go through security screening
  7. Find your gate and board the plane.

Each of these processes can be very long. You need to plan to have at least 2 hours of a layover in Miami to make sure you can get through this in time.

My 2 1/2 hours would have been fine, except that my flight out of Maracaibo was delayed 1 1/2 hours, giving me now less than an hour in Miami from the time my plane landed til the time my next plane took off. The worker at the ticket counter in Maracaibo tried to get me on a later flight because he said there was no way I would make my next flight to Ohio, which was leaving Miami at 12:50pm and my flight out of Maracaibo was now scheduled to land at 11:55am. My first thought- impossible. My next thought- with God, nothing is impossible. So I prayed. I prayed for a delayed flight to Ohio (and I don't usually pray for flight delays). I asked God to somehow make it so that I can arrive in Ohio relatively on time (since I had no way of contacting my family to let them know I would not be arriving when they were expecting me.) So, I decided to trust God and see what happened.

My flight landed at 11:50am. By the time we got off the plane, it was 12:00pm (50 minutes til take off for my next flight). I ran to get to passport control only to find I had to take a train and had to wait a few minutes for the train. Of course, I wanted it to hurry, but there was nothing I could do but wait for it. The train came 2 minutes later (but it felt like at least 15 minutes). I got to passport control and went to the side for U.S. citizens. THERE WAS NOBODY IN LINE! The immigration officer was just sitting there, waiting for me to come. He checked my passport, asked me a few questions, welcomed me home, and sent me on my way. Time check- 12:04pm.

I ran down to get my luggage and beat my luggage to baggage claim. I had to wait a minute or two for it to come. My luggage was within the first 15 bags to come out. I got my luggage and went to Customs. THERE WERE ONLY 2 PEOPLE IN FRONT OF ME IN LINE! Both people were chosen to have the bags inspected in customs. When it was my turn in line, the customs officer asked me a few questions and then allowed me to pass customs without going through inspection. I left customs and headed out to recheck my bags. Time check- 12:07pm.

I rechecked my bags and had to find my concourse. Of course, it was not close. I was actually by concourse C or D and I needed concourse H. I ran (literally) through the airport to concourse H, where I then had to go through security. When I got to security, THERE WAS ONLY 1 FAMILY IN FRONT OF ME IN LINE! I passed through security with no problems. Time check- 12:18pm.

Now I needed to find my gate. To my surprise, my gate was the 3rd or 4th gate from security. I found it with ease. Time check- 12:19pm.

Boarding time for my flight- 12:20pm.

That's right, I arrived at my gate BEFORE THEY BOARDED! God performed a miracle that day. He opened every door and got rid of every line in that airport, allowing me to make it through all that in less than 20 minutes!

I boarded the plane and arrived in Cleveland on time, with my family anxiously waiting for me.

All the glory goes to God. Without God, that would have been an impossible situation, but with God, all things are possible!!!

A visit to a familiar place....

Last Saturday, I went on a trip to a familiar place- Ohio. That's right, I am visiting my hometown. My family is very excited that I am home, even if it is only for 3 weeks.

I arrived in Ohio 2 weeks before the mission team to get final preparations finished for their mission trip. We are just about prepared for their arrival!

This time back "home" is being spent with family and friends in addition to work. I have had a chance to share about what God is doing in Maracaibo with people from my home church and with those around me (you do not have to be around me for too long before you figure out that I like to talk about what God is doing in Venezuela). I hope to be able to see everyone before returning back to Maracaibo in August.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The cards you were dealt...

Our training meeting last week discussed culture. Things that people think, do, and say are results of the culture from the area in which they grew up. People growing up in Ohio have dramatically different culture than people from Maracaibo in many different aspects. We discussed these aspects of culture (being time oriented vs. being event oriented, being concerned with tasks or relationships, being individualistic or cooperative, crisis oriented or non-crisis oriented, being open or closed about their personal life, etc.) and compared them between the 2 locations.
We then played a card game that helped them learn more about culture. Sorry. Once again, I am not giving you any clues to the game in case you end up playing it. I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.
At the end of the meeting, we gave the team members a chance to practice one small aspect of the different culture in Ohio- by using food. In Venezuela, double dipping is a completely acceptable practice and is extremely common, especially in parties. In Ohio, this practice is not accepted. So, the team members practiced eating food that is usually dipped in sauces without double dipping. While eating some were “tattling” on each other and telling each other when they did double dip.
At the next meeting, we took the information we learned about culture and learned how to go about sharing the Gospel with people in a different culture. My friend Kris discussed one method that can be used in the United States to share the Gospel. We also learned a few other methods. This week, the team is practicing using the methods they learned.
The team is almost ready. After today, there is just one more training meeting before the trip. I know they are excited and getting more excited as the time draws near.

A visit from a friend

Last week, I had a visitor. My friend Kris from Oklahoma came to Maracaibo to visit me. She came to help with some activities in the children’s ministry as well as help with the training of the mission team. I got to show her the sights of Maracaibo and give her some new experiences in Latin America. Enjoy some pics of her first visit to Maracaibo.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Updates soon to come...

I know it has been a little while since I have updated the blog. I have been very busy over the past few weeks. However, I will be updating soon. Keep checking back and thanks for your patience. God bless you.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

It's all child's play...

What do hulahoops, ball-pit balls, and bandanas have in common? They were all part of our last training meeting for our missionaries. That's right, our missionaries were playing- just like children- and learning in the process.

This week's meeting was about teamwork and building their team relationships. I utilized some of my training from CIT (Center for Intercultural Training in North Carolina) to help this team learn how to be a team.

We started off with a game involving hulahoops and ball-pit balls. Each team (4 in all) had to try to get all of the balls into their hulahoop to win. While I do not want to give away the secret on how to win this game, the lesson learned from this game was unity.

We then learned what the Bible says about teamwork and being united as a team. After the Bible Study, it was play time again.
This time, members of the team were blindfolded and had to find the ball with the directions given by a team member who could not see the ball but getting gestures from the team member who could see the ball. Sounds crazy, doesn't it. There were several lessons learned in this game, like the importance of communication, leadership, and trust. After long laughs by those who were spectators, and celebrations of those who actually found the ball, we learned about how to be an effective team.

This mission team is really starting to become a team. They are uniting together in joys and sorrows and preparing together to serve God in Ohio. Congratulations TEAM!!