Where is God in the midst of poverty and oppression? I have asked myself that question many times over the years, always with a healthy dose of cynicism. Why did He allow this to happen? I questioned, clutching my iPhone as I stepped around a woman clutching two dirty faced children to her side, palm extended in hopes of a few pesos. Why isn´t the church doing anything to help? I sighed, gagging slightly at the sight of a man with a festering leg wound extended into my path. Where is God? I asked again as our group trooped past a man sprawled unconscious on a sidewalk in Mexico City.
Answers came in two different forms: Our hosts in Mexico City, and a book. I was nervous about staying Continue reading
18 May 2015
On the Pacific Coast
The first day we arrived in Uvita, Costa Rica and we had a more relaxed day on the beach. Many of the students were playing soccer, swimming in the ocean, and walking the beach. Several students had surfing lessons in the morning. After lunch at the Flutterby house, where we were staying, we hosted a soccer clinic at a Christian school in Uvita for children under the age of 14. There were three different stations where the kids learned passing, juggling, and teamwork skills.
Later, we went to a turtle reserve in Dominical, and learned about the different types of turtles in Costa Rica, and the ways they protect the turtles. Then we did a service project at a primary school down the road from the turtle reserve. At the school we painted two classrooms, we did cleanup around the school, and then made a garden. Overall it was more of working with the community by working hands-on and interacting with them. Continue reading
18 May 2015
After leaving San José we traveled down to Dominical, Costa Rica. As soon as we drove into the town there was an amazing environment of a surfing town. Every person was extremely laid back and going with the motion. No one was in a hurry to do anything other than hitting the waves. Once we got off the bus we all headed towards the beach to get food. As we looked around, we were amazed because there was the most wonderful market right in front of us.
There was a great amount of time spent at the market. Throughout the time we stayed there we had a pool and a much needed hangout area. On the second day we did a thirty minute walking tour plus zip lining. We all had to get strapped in and sent off with a leader and a catcher. There was a total of eight different zip lines that lasted an average of 15-18 seconds of air time; while zip lining it did not seem that long because we were all admiring the beauty around us. Continue reading
17 May 2015
We apologize for the apparent silence from the summer Mexico Cross-Cultural, but if I speak for myself, I can say: I’m having an awesome time! While many of us have had our difficulties: extreme flight delays (and arriving to Puebla at 4:00 in the morning), getting lost in a large city with no cell service, struggling with a language that many of us only have a basic knowledge in, personality issues with conversation partners, and adjusting to some cultural differences, we have also had several exciting times.
Already we have spent two weeks here in beautiful Puebla studying intensive Spanish at the Spanish Institute of Puebla. Antonio, the director, is a sweet man and always extremely helpful with understanding the language and culture of Puebla. The institute has been wonderful to us, including taking us on a field trip to Cholula to see the pyramids and some churches. We also have made friends from all over the world here at the institute including a diplomat from Northern Ireland and a human resource manager from Germany. Our professors are great, and I have observed a good many of us taking large strides in our language skills. Plus, one of the coolest things happening right now in Puebla is the International Cultural Festival including free theater shows, concerts, and original art from all around the world.
While most of the students on the Mexico cross-cultural are staying with Mexican host families, I have the opportunity to be staying with some friends of mine. My dad met Keith and Debbie Myers at a West Virginia American Baptist conference and eventually, our church came to become supporters for Keith and Debbie when they decided to become missionaries in Mexico. Keith and Debbie have two teenage children, Boyden and Bailie who I am growing to view more and more like my true brother and sister. While we do speak English in the house, I have had the opportunity to travel to the mountains of Oaxaca to one of their churches that they work with.
Right now, Keith and Debbie are working on a chicken project and helping several communities become a self-sustaining community while spreading the love of Christ. I experienced a whole different world in Oaxaca from the city of Puebla. While I am still getting a few things mixed up (for example, one of the pastors in Oaxaca asked me “¿Como te llames?” (What is your name?) and I said, “No gracias.”), I feel more confident with myself, the language, and traveling “beyond the margins,” as Profe puts it.
12 May 2015
From La Fortuna, we made our way to San José, Costa Rica. The Studio Hotel where we stayed was beautiful, with a roof-top pool. The first thing we did was get cleated up and play a 5v5 tournament where the winner stays on the field. From there we had a relaxing night to ourselves where most people went to bed early, watching TV. The next morning we made our way towards a park to play soccer and go to a nearby festival. The festival was promoting being active daily. There were items such as rollerblading, skateboarding, boxing, Zumba, and much more occurring on the streets. We all went back to the hotel for a break before the exciting semifinal game for the Division 1 league of Costa Rica. It was a rowdy game with an intense atmosphere, much different than any American sporting event. Since we have a diverse group from several sports, we conducted an interview to know people’s reactions to the game. Continue reading
Morgan, Elisa, Jelly:
Going into the home stay was nerve racking because our family didn’t speak any English and we didn’t know much Spanish to communicate with them. We found a way to communicate with them by hand signals and little key words. Some ways we bonded with them were playing Spanish twister and eating hot chili peppers around the dinner table and laughing at everyone’s reactions. We bonded with our 11 year old host brother André by playing soccer, jumping on the trampoline, teaching him English, and Elisa by chasing him with a toad (Sapo). When it came time to leave, it was a lot harder than we thought it would be.
Aislinn, Becca, Michael, and Rachel:
We entered our house a little more confident than most groups because we had a little more assistance with translating since Michael was staying with us. As we walked through the doors the host mother and one of the daughters were open arms in greeting us. They were so kind and so open Continue reading
- May 2015
We started our travels early in the morning; it was roughly a 3 hour drive to the Maleku reservations, near the town of Guatuso. Once we got there, a truck took our luggage up to our location while we walked on a long, strenuous, hilly, and rocky road. By the time we got up to the dining area, we were all extremely sweaty because of the strenuous walk we were not prepared for. Once we got up to the dining area we had lunch. The locals knew we were on the reservations so they wanted to play a pickup game of soccer. On our way down to the pickup game we walked through the village to invite people to come watch or to come play.
The next morning we woke up and had breakfast around 7:00. We then split up into two groups; the first group took a tour in the dry forest and the second group worked on an art of painting on a shell of a fruit. The tour in the dry forest consisted of our guide Alex showing all of us plants that are medically used Continue reading
4. May 2015
We departed from EMU at 6:00 a.m. after 24 students were asked to show their passports. All but 1 were able to do so. The other sends her parents on a trek, first towards home, then turn around and chase the bus towards the airport. Phone calls were exchanged often to check on mile-markers to see if the pursuit vehicle was gaining…33 minutes, then 28, then 25, the two vehicles are getting closer. Twenty miles onto Route 66 we decide to stop for a quick breakfast at the Golden Arches in an effort to both give the group a final opportunity for a familiar American breakfast, and allow the chase vehicle to make up some ground. Within 20 minutes the chase vehicle arrives, and drops off the goods. We board the bus and head to Dulles. And so, the adventure begins.
The flight took us from Dulles to San Salvador, to a final destination of Managua. We touched down on time at 3:49. Going through customs was a breeze, then students observed the variety of sights, sounds, and smells of the city as we drove through the streets of Managua. We arrived at Quinta Shalom guesthouse for a hot meal of chicken, pasta, rice, salad, fruit drink, and for those that had room, an iced white cake.
The first day in Nicaragua was spent touring Granada, Continue reading
I walked into the dorm room from my morning shower and he was cooking something on a camp stove on the windowsill. Curious, I asked him, “how long have you been traveling?” From his worn hiking pack and sun kissed face I could tell that he had spent time outdoors. “Since last Saturday, we’ve been hiking for about a week,” he said in a smooth Italian accent. It was like he was touching the words gently, almost glossing over them with a song on the tip of his tongue. Much different than the lady that gave us a tour of the catacombs beneath the Church of St Agnes in Agony. Her English was like a roller coaster, an exaggerated movie Italian accent.
“How about you?” my tall hiking roommate asked.
“I’ve been travelling about 4 months, since January,” trying to hide a sheepish grin.
“Ooh, wow,” was the response, visibly impressed with the length of my journey. Respect was established, a bond shared.
I met this man on my free travel to Assisi. He was only one of many people that we met along the journey. One of many people we will likely never see again.
As we sit here in the airport in Rome awaiting the plane back, we are filled with excitement and anxiety. Home is within sight, friends and family within reach. But how will we answer the questions? How do we begin to share this with the people who love us and long to hear our stories? What stories are even worth sharing? And of course the strict security, passport control, and jet lag aren’t helping either. But we are going home. If it still feels like home remains to be seen. Continue reading
13. April 2015
As we enter our last stretch of time in the Middle East, the focus of our explorations has shifted to the sea – to learning and walking the different types of harbors, to studying Paul’s journeys by water (and land), to basking in the views of the seas from our hotel windows.
I’ve known water in a relatively limited way until this week.
I’ve known living water preached about in church.
I’ve known thunderstorms and flash floods.
I’ve known peace like a river, love like and ocean, and joy like a fountain.
I’ve known the cool, refreshing splash of jumping in a pool on a hot Texas summer day.
I’ve known Palestinian water shortages and fewer showers. Continue reading