Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A regular part of any missionary's life...

Saying goodbye.

It's hard saying goodbye. The people who you work with, live with, fellowship with, worship with- they become like your second family. You don't want to have to say goodbye- but it is part of being a missionary. It seems like you are always saying goodbye.

Well, this trip to Venezuela was a short one- only 3 1/2 weeks. But, I am still very close with the people here. After being away for 6 months, it did not take me long to get back into the flow of life in Maracaibo and feel like I was living here again- only I didn't have my apartment anymore. I felt more like I belong here than as if I were a tourist or a short-term missionary. This is home- at least one of my homes- and the people here are family- as least part of my family. I love being in Maracaibo and I am sad to leave.

As I am writing this (I should be in bed as I have to wake up in 2 hours to go to the airport for my flight), I am spending time with Guita. She will once again have to remain in Venezuela.

So, with tears in my eyes, I say goodbye. However, I can trade in these tears of sorrow for tears of joy. Why? Because I know that God is good. He works out all things for His glory. He wants to wipe away every tear. One day, I will be reunited again with my Venezuelan family- if not in Maracaibo, then in Heaven. I can also rejoice that I will be yet another step closer to my upcoming ministry in the DR. So, although tonight has tears, joy will soon be coming!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Free Day!!

The Mission trip free day. This is a day- usually close to the end of a mission trip- that is free from mission trip duties. We do not usually have to work on this day; it is a day to enjoy ourselves and experience the local wonders of this great place we have been serving in all week.

Normally on the Venezuelan mission trips, our free day includes a trip to downtown Maracaibo, where the team has an opportunity to do some sightseeing in the older part of town and shopping at the Indian market. However, this year we had 3 kids on the team. I didn't think that they would like going to see old Catholic churches and wait around while the adults went shopping. So, before the trip started, Arturo (my co-coordinator) and I had been talking about the free day activities. I asked him to try to plan something different that the kids on the team would like. We did not discuss it too much more as he kept me in the dark (for the most part) about the plans he was developing for this special day for the mission team.
I did get a little information before the free day about the plans and was able to put 2 and 2 together to figure out what was happening for this special day. It was indeed a mission trip free day to remember- 2 actually.

The team actually went on a little trip. We boarded a private bus at 3:30am on Saturday morning and traveled for 7 hours before arriving at our posada in the town of Tucacas. Tucacas is the port city where you can take a boat to the islands of the Venezuelan keys.

When the bus arrived in Tucacas, the roads leading to our posada were too narrow for the bus to maneuver. So, we had to walk about 5 blocks. Not a problem as everyone was excited. We quickly put our belongings in our rooms and stepped through the back door of the posada which lead directly to the boats waiting to take us to the island. A 15 minute boat ride later, we arrived at our paradise destination.

We spend the next 6 hours on the island- playing in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea or walking along the sandy shores. My back pain had even eased up a bit in the water, allowing me to enjoy my time there. Until....

A few of us decided to take a walk to the other side of the island. About 5 minutes into the walk, my back muscles spasmed stronger than I have felt in a very long time. I was literally paralyzed. I could not continue. I sent the rest of the group on ahead while I went back. That 5 minute walk there took about 25 minutes to walk back. I literally could not move. This was the strongest pain I had felt in a very long time.

Fortunately, we only had about an hour or so left on the island. The difficult task, however, still remained, as I had to board the boat and return back to the posada. Once back at the posada, the pain increased. I actually got to a point where I could not sit up from a laying-down position. I literally could not move. I was in pain all night and by morning, needed the assistance of the wall to get up and to walk. I felt like I was 90 years old.

We packed up everything that next morning and headed back to the bus. Remember, the bus is 5 blocks away. I believe it took me about 30 agonizing minutes to walk those 5 blocks. Sitting in the bus for the next 7 hours was also not an easy task.

By the time we arrived back in Maracaibo, the pain medication had kicked in just enough to allow me to walk semi-upright and without extreme pain. We got back home and I wanted to just rest. However, we had to get ready for the closing of the VBS. While I was in a lot of pain still, I enjoyed the closing service and goodbye dinner that followed.

My back continued to hurt for the whole week, although not nearly intense as it did on the island. However, even in the midst of the pain that I was feeling, I really enjoyed the trip to the keys, and for 2 main reasons:

  1. I love the beach, especially the Caribbean Sea. It has always been my ideal vacation destination- my paradise.

  2. I didn't have to do any of the planning or leading of the trip.

Arturo had told me that he was taking control of everything for the trip- that I didn't have to worry about anything because he wanted me to enjoy the trip too. And he did- he took care of everything. I didn't have to do a single bit of planning, leading, not even a head count. I was just able to enjoy. That was probably the best gift anyone could have given me. Thank you Arturo!

So, despite the pain, the trip to the Venezuelan Keys was a wonderful trip. It was my 3rd time out there, and if given the opportunity, I would return again.

Disclaimer: This is not a normal mission trip free day. Please do not think that this takes place on all mission trips. It does not. Please do not be jealous either. :-P

Saturday, August 15, 2009

El Expreso Bumerán- VBS 2009- part 3

Day 5- Friday

The last day of VBS looked different than any other VBS I've ever seen. Today we took the kids on an all-day "field trip" to the granja (a part outside of the city). The children arrived to the church by 7am and got together with their small groups. We then got everyone onto the buses and headed out to the granja. We arrived there by about 9:15am. All the children received breakfast and then we started with our VBS day, as scheduled- but behind schedule (as expected).

We discovered that the music for the VBS would not play properly on the system we had. We could only get the music or the lyrics- not both. While we had the music for the song "El Expreso Bumerán" playing, and our sound guy trying to figure out how to get the lyrics to play too, we all of a sudden had lyrics. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that it wasnt the lyrics on the CD, but the kids who were singing along to the song!!!

Throughout the day, the kids still had their classes- Bible Stories, Discussion, Evangelism, Missions, Visual Arts, and Bible Verse time, but they also had times of recreation, ate lunch and snacks, and they also went swimming. I will admit that I was hesistant about the swimming part. I did not want to see anything happen to any kid while swimming at VBS. However, we did have 2 lifeguards on the scene, as well as many adults keeping an eye out on the kids in the pool.

The children really enjoyed their time in the granja, and didn't seem too disappointed that we had to return to the church about an hour early due to the storm that sprung up in the afternoon heat.

Saturday was our missionary free day. We will discuss that day on another post. However, Sunday night was the closing of the VBS. We had about a third to a half of the kids return that night and bring their parents with them. The church was full, with the exception of a few seats remaining in the balcony. The children performed their dances that they worked on during the week in Visual Arts class, the children's choir performed some of the songs of the week, and the children each received their certificate of participation in the VBS. It was a wonderfully close to an awesome VBS- one the kids will not soon forget!

Inflatable fun!

Recreation games

Lunch time

Time to cool off in the pool- shallow end only for the smaller kids!

A very quiet bus ride back to the church after a long day at the granja.

VBS closing performances

Friday, August 14, 2009

The secret is out

After having a 24 hour flu, I am feeling better today. Enough so to spend the afternoon with my friend Emiro- a friend whom I have known for about 3 or 4 years, ever since he was my translator on my mission trips with GMF. After being here for 3 weeks, we were finally able to find time in our schedules to hang out. I also had the opportunity to meet his sisters and his adorable little puppy.

Emiro was telling me that his puppy's name is Kyra. She is only 2 months old. She likes to chew but that is because she is just a puppy still. She is very cute.... well, that is not exactly correct.

I believe the conversation went something like this....

Emiro- Yea, she is only 2 months old. Her name is Kyra. She is really my sister's dog, but she is sorta my dog too.
Jyll- Uh, Emiro, you do know this dog is not a girl, right?
Emiro- What?
Jyll- Uh, yea, this is a boy dog.
Emiro- Are you sure? How do you know?
Jyll- Trust me, this is a boy dog.
Emiro- Oh my goodness!!! Are you serious?? Oh my!!

This was then followed by about an hour of laughter as we broke the news to his 2 sisters. I then found out about the little pink hearts with the puppy's name on it that they purchased and the little purple collar. They then were like, "So, now what do we call her- uh, him?"

It was a very amusing time of letting the secret out of the bag- the girl dog is actually a boy dog- and nobody in the family knew. Poor puppy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

El Expreso Bumerán- VBS 2009- part 2

Tuesday, day 2 of our VBS week, turned out to be much smoother than day 1. People understood what they were doing. We started fairly close to on-time. The rotations went well. The groups knew what to expect. I even got to sit down and eat lunch that day (didn't happen on day 1!!) While there were a few issues that still needed to be sorted out, all in all it worked out well. However, the big test would come on day 3.

Wednesday, day 3 of the VBS week- the missionaries had a team meeting in the morning and a lunch away from the church to follow. This means that the missionaries (me included) would not be there for the start of the VBS. The VBS workers were on their own. Those in charge knew that I would not be there, but that they could call me if they had any problems. I had trained and prepared another person to be the MC of the worship rally time and from what I heard, she did a great job! I was pleasantly surprised to get no phone calls as the start time for the VBS approached. When we arrived to the church at 2:30pm, everything was running smoothly. The kids were in their classes, the rotations were going well, and nobody was running around frantically. Overall, Filadelfia Church and the VBS workers did an outstanding job at their first test of VBS on their own. Congrats!!!
When Thursday came along, everyone was singing VBS songs all day long- they were stuck in everyone's head (actually, I think this started on Monday, but now people knew the words as well). Something else that came about on Thursday was the start of major back pain for me- the kind that keeps you from doing the motions to the Bumerang Express music and would keep you sidelined except for the fact that the kids expect to see you up front and visable. So, back pain and all, I was still there, cheering on the kids to follow Jesus, worship Him, confess Him, and serve Him and that there is no need to worry because in the end, it all comes back to Jesus!

Kangaroos praying together (12- 13 yrs old)

Worship rally song

Bible stories told in dramatic ways

Worship rally skits

What can I say... they love me!!

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

El Expreso Bumerán- VBS 2009

Wow! What a week! How do I sum up a week of Vacation Bible school in 1 post?? Let me give you a general summary and then include some pictures....

The week before the VBS, I arrived in Venezuela to finish plans with the Vzlan team. I met with each area- missions, evangelism, snacks, recreation, drama, small group leaders, musicians, planning, administration, etc- about 12 meetings in all. Thats a lot of meetings in 1 week! But it was well worth it when I saw how much work and preparation the Vzlan team was putting in to making the first VBS a success.

The mission team arrived on Friday, July 31. On Saturday morning, we had our VBS training with the Vzlan team and the missionaries. We sang all the songs (with motions), went over the rotation schedule, what would occur in each class, the entire program, and then had each area leader explain in some details what lessons the kids would be learning in their particular class (7 classes- Bible Stories, Discussion, Evangelism, Missions, Visual Arts, Crafts, and Recreation- which only occurred on the last day of VBS). The training went well. Everyone was pumped and ready for VBS.

By this time, we had about 250 kids signed up for the VBS. When Sunday rolled around and the missionaries were introduced as being here to help with the VBS and more info about the VBS was presented, many more kids signed up. We ended up with about 320 kids on the roster.

Monday morning proved hectic as people, wanting to make sure they understood what was going on, turned to me with a zillion questions- all asking at the same time!!! However, everything became clear as the starting time for the VBS came.

Start time was 1:30pm (with kids arriving between 1:00pm and 1:30pm). Some kids arrived at 11:30am. Yikes! too early! Most arrived by 1:30, with the exception of the bus full of kids arriving from the Casa Escuelas. The Casa Escuelas are house churches designed for children. I am sure I've talked about them before. Most of these kids have never been in a church before. This is a wonderful outreach to these children. They arrived in buses- all 150 of them- between 1:45- 2:15pm. We got started on day 1 at 2:30pm- 1 hour late.

At first the children seemed hesitant. They didn't know what to make of this gringa standing on the stage, talking with a funny accent, and introducing them to strange words, like "No Worries!" and the names of their groups- Koalas, Lorikeets, Wombats, and Kangaroos (Yes, in English). They didn't know what to make of the songs with the motions. However, they quickly warmed to the idea and really started to love them.

The rotations and the schedule had to be adjusted because of our tardiness. Some groups finished all of their classes early. Some accidentally missed a class. I think one class went to snack time twice. However, things got worked out and the kids seemed to be enjoying themselves and learning that no matter what happens in life, it all comes back to Jesus- so... No Worries!
Ok, since this post is already a bit long, I will just include some pictures for you and continue tomorrow.

VBS training- adults learning the songs and motions

The kids on the first day... a little hesitant

Someone who never anticipated being the MC of the VBS!

The kids at the end of Day 1

To be continued....