Thursday, July 31, 2014

Winding down

Tomorrow (today for you's guys on EST time) is our last full day here. Today we concluded VBS, worked in the field, and I even had to play nurse for a short time when a little girl was accidentally bitten in the face by a dog. Tomorrow we are getting up early to go to the city and do some tourism at the historical sites as well as a little haggle-style shopping in some marketplaces. Here's Christiana's take on today.

"So today was the final day of VBS, and it was somewhat bittersweet. While it's a relief to have completed what seemed to be a successful event that engaged, entertained, and educated the kids from town and from Ranchito, I will definitely miss seeing the faces of the kids from town that have become so familiar to all of us within the last few days.

The morning started off very interesting, with a couple hours of rain that threatened to cancel our last day of VBS altogether. However, it turned into a couple hours of bonding time with the Ranchito kids and a couple of the older kids from town who are all related to the Acosta family one way or another. We played soccer with the kids in the rain, and either watched or participated as the kids dumped cups of water on each other and got themselves "muy mojado" by emptying overhanging tarps full of water on the unsuspecting victims underneath. After the rain, as wet as it was, several of the kids from town still showed up at 11 AM, ready and excited for the last VBS, which was definitely encouraging to all of us! Today they learned about the redemption story, and how the only way to get to God is through his son, Jesus Christ. My favorite part was watching the kids do their crafts though! We purchased a Polaroid camera and took pictures of all the kids, and it was so fun to see their reactions as the films developed and their pictures appeared. The boys especially really enjoyed decorating the frames for their pictures, and it was so worth seeing their smiles as they completed their frames.

After VBS, several of our group went out to the fields that Chuy owns to fertilize the fields, while the rest of us stayed to help out at the house. The girls and I decided to try making mangolassi for everyone, an Indian drink made with the mangos we girls had been chopping for over an hour, which turned out to be a big hit! A highlight of the evening was the Ranchito kids singing a birthday song, and the gluten free no-bake cake one of the Acosta girls made for my mom's birthday today. It was really neat to watch them get involved and even care about the birthday of someone they've only known for a week!

Right now, we're outside watching the movie "Megamind" in Spanish with some of the kids who came to VBS and the kids from Ranchito - definitely an interesting experience! The movie is definitely better in English by the way! In the interest of spending the last couple of nights with everyone, I'll end here and wish everyone back home a great weekend!"

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A day of growth as a team.


"Today was the third day of VBS. Before the lesson, we played several games of volleyball and Baby in the Air, and the kids made small shields for their craft. We had to set up the volleyball net, and it was so knotted that it took us about fifteen minutes to disentangle it. We then sang the Spanish songs that we learned yesterday. Gabrielle, Laura, Mrs. Boyajian, and Mrs. Sallard were the leaders for today's lesson, and their theme was faith.  The superhero for the day was Captain America, since he had faith in his team while completing his missions (hence the shield craft). The Bible character of the day was David, and they discussed how he had faith in God during his fight with Goliath.  They also had a small skit of the fight.  Joe played Goliath and one of the kids from the ranch played David.  After VBS finished for the day, we had a small snack and played some more volleyball for another hour or so.  We then took down the volleyball net and had lunch.  We ate bacon (heaven came down and glory filled my soul) in a spicy jalapeño sauce with rice and tortillas.  They also served cinnamon rice milk, which sounds odd but was actually quite tasty.  We have been hanging out since lunch; I messed around on the guitar a little bit and then took a much-needed nap.  Right now the leaders of tomorrow's lesson are practicing their skit, so every time I look up, either Elisabeth is playing dead on the floor or Brianna looks like she is about to land in my lap.  However, things like that are pretty much normal at this point, so I will leave you with that encouraging note regarding our sanity."


"As we start to wind down our VBS here at Camichines, it seems to be more and more evident the witness we brought, and are still bringing, to these kids.  Each day the line of kids that had memorized their verses grows longer as does the participation in the singing and lessons. Even the corner, where the cool guys hang out, was doing the hand motions and singing to the songs.  To see that was encouraging.  The theme for today was faith.  Everything we did, in some way, reflected that theme.   For example, in volleyball, we had to learn to trust each other to get the ball and to do what was needed to win.  Gabrielle, Laura, Mrs. Sallard, and Mrs. Boyajian lead this day's lesson, and it went very well.  They, at first, talked about Captain America and how had faith in his companions to always help him.  Then they talked about a small boy, who had faith in God, to be his help.  The small boy was David of the Bible.  The children were very much into the story, answering questions and participating in every way.  

Some high points of the day were, a group of people singing jingle bells with a kid, hanging out as a team and laughing.  This kid loves to sing and pretend to play instruments, but usually he is over in a corner doing it by himself.  Today, however, a whole bunch of interns and team members sang along with him.  I personally did not get to see that joy in his face, but I would have loved to.  And after VBS we were told to just relax and not do much work.  Many people took a nap, (including me).  But after I woke up I came down and sat and talked with a few team members.  Stephen would play the guitar and Joe would sing improv.  The stuff he came up with was hysterical.  

Of course we had some low points.  There was some conflict, which I will not talk about here, but I can say that it was resolved and apologies were given and received.  And there is always the problem of a lack of sleep.  Making sure we are well rested as well as one top of our work.  We take naps almost anytime we can and waking us up is a challenge (this morning I had to throw a towel in Isaac's face to wake him up).  But regardless of these minor challenges we still are enjoying our time and our witness to the town people."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Juegos aguas, gigantes, y pizza


"Today was the second day of VBS. We spent yesterday evening learning songs in Spanish to sing with the kids. We practiced them this morning. The kids showed up at around 11 and we played water games and made superhero masks for the craft. I helped with the crafts and with the games for the little kids.  
Then we sang songs with them in Spanish. We even learned "Praise Ye the Lord" in Spanish!
The superhero for today was Thor and the Bible heroes were Joshua and Caleb. We gave each of the kids a jellybean. Some of them were gross and some were good. They had to eat them. We were trying to illustrate bravery to them. The theme of the lesson was that Joshua and Caleb were brave even when they saw the giants in Canaan. Christiana and I read the story and the rest of the team taught the kids hand motions to go along with the story. 
The day went very smoothly and at the end of VBS we walked to a soccer field with some of the children and they played soccer with some of the team members. We are learning a lot of Spanish phrases to use with the kids. 
We came back and ate chicken and rice for lunch. Elisabeth, Stephen, and Jamilyn did the cleaning up after lunch today. We are taking shifts doing clean up.  In the afternoon, some of the team members prepared for tomorrow's lesson and the rest of us worked with Chuy on moving sand and sifting gravel for the playground. Some of the girls and I also cleaned the street in front of Ranchito.  We also ate the leftover jellybeans from the morning. Some of the tastes included canned dog food and grass clippings. 
After that, everyone showered and we went to Cocula (the town where Mariachi began) for pizza. The pizza in Mexico was better than most pizza in the U.S.  We walked to the grocery store and picked up candy as prizes for when the kids say their verses in VBS.  Some of Chuy's cousins who help at Ranchito came with us and we enjoyed trying to talk to them in Spanish. It was fun and relaxing just to walk around. Then we came back and had a devotional. Now everyone is in bed excpet me and sarah and joe and mai-khanh and we are sooo tired is this good enough?"



"This morning we were woken up by "And I will Always Love You" sung in Spanish over the loudspeakers. After everyone was awake, we went down to breakfast and then prepared for our second day of VBS. The morning went by really quickly and before I knew it, VBS was starting. I helped with crafts again today. We had the kids put stickers on plastic masks. They turned out really cool. It is really encouraging to be able to start to speak more and more Spanish with the kids as the week goes on. We sang a lot of songs in Spanish today with the kids. The songs are a lot of fun to sing and the kids really seem to like them. Today the VBS lesson that we taught the kids was about bravery. We had them do hand motions to participate in the lesson as Joanna and Christiana read them the story. 
One of my favorite parts of the day was when I had some time to play with one of the little boys at VBS. I played with him with his little toys cars for about 15 minutes. He was so cute and although we couldn't speak to each other very well, we had a lot of fun playing together. He liked to crash his cars together and see how far he could get them to go across the courtyard. He liked to race them, too. After that, we played some water games which the kids really loved. It is so hot here and everyone loved getting soaked with water. After VBS, we took some of the kids down to the soccer field to play for a while. 
After that Elisabeth, Joanna, Christiana, Jami, Anita and I went out in the street and picked up trash. Then we all went and helped shovel sand and rocks with everyone else. We have been shoveling this one pile of red sand and rocks for the whole time we have been here. We have to sift the rocks out and then we take it to the playground. Hopefully when we leave, the pile will be gone because it seems to be never ending. When we were finished with that, we all got ready to go out for pizza. After we ate, we walked around the city in the rain. It was a lot of fun and the city was so beautiful."

Monday, July 28, 2014

VBS, la primera día

9:50 p.m.

Today was the first day of our VBS here in Camichines. Around 10:30 this morning, kids from around the village began to trickle onto the property. At first it was a slow stream of children and then around 11:15 more and more children began pouring in. The first thing on the schedule for the day was game and craft time. We split the kids into three groups: older kids, younger kids, and a group of about ten kids for crafts at a time.

We played four games with the older kids: Simon Says, Four Corners, Red Light Green Light, and The Queen Wants, which is a specialized version of a scavenger hunt in which the "queen" requests something in the area and the first child to bring it back earns a point. Everyone enjoyed all of the games, and all of the children were very competitive.

After about an hour of assorted games with the children, we walked back into the yard and prepared for the lesson. We started out with a few songs and then Ben, Stephen, Joe, and I delivered our lesson. This lesson was based primarily on obedience and we used Moses and Superman as examples, which was a good way to grab the kid's attention. After the lesson, we gave a few examples of obedience in everyday life to see if the children understood the lesson.

As soon as the lesson ended, the children ate a quick snack and then we all headed down to "la concha," which is a large, square slab of concrete that doubles as a basketball court and a soccer field. A few of the children from the village came to play and soon we had enough people for 6 teams of 6 people each. We stayed at the concha for about an hour and then headed back to the house for lunch, which consisted of tortillas, beans, and fresh fruit. 


     Today we woke up knowing that we had a busy day ahead of us. It was going to be the first day of the vacation bible school that we were holding, and I, like some, had no idea what to expect. The day before, all we were told was to just "go with the flow". Breakfast consisted of pancakes and fresh fruit. After breakfast, everyone had, like everyday, a little time for devotions by themselves. Some spent this time, however, to start cleaning up the courtyard, preparing for VBS. Most of the activities were going to be held there, so we swept and covered up all the machines. 

     Then, at around 10:30, the kids started to arrive. Everyone was assigned to a activity such as games for the older and younger kids or crafts. I was assigned to the games for the older kids. We started off with red light green light in the courtyard. Then, we moved onto the street to play games such as simon says, four corners, and mare y tierra. For the younger kids, they played games such as duck duck goose and also simon says. Capes were made today for crafts, and the kids had markers and stickers to decorate. After all these activities, the kids sat down for their lesson on obedience. Snacks were served for the kids following the lesson.

     VBS ended around 2:30, but most of the kids stayed to go to a soccer field nearby. After everyone was finished with playing soccer, we had some time to relax before going into one of that classrooms to watch a play that the kids had put together. For the rest of the night we practiced songs and the lesson for the following day's VBS. We ate chicken parmesan for dinner that was made by some of the team members.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Un maravilloso reencuentro Domingo en la Iglesia.

Friends and followers,

Today was a much appreciated day for rest. It's amazing how we take Sunday, The Lord's Day, for granted. In our culture, it is often just another day for commerce that happens to be on a weekend, or a day to watch football. Here, where you work hard outside all day while the sun is up for 6 days straight, Sunday is a highly coveted relief. Jamilyn Donaldson is today's blogger. However, I would like to say that the highlight of my day was reuniting with Horte Segura, Sofia Ramirez-Gonzalez, and Esdras. It was really great to see all of them after 5 years. Also, doing about 50mph on a quad through muddy fields with Bri on the back was a pretty awesome time, too. We have taken many pictures but unfortunately the internet here isn't strong enough to upload them. There will probably be a massive dump upon our return. Here's Jamilyn:

"This morning we prepared to go to church. Everyone ate breakfast and sat in one of the rooms until we left for church. We all piled into two cars, all the kids, us and the interns, and the Acosta family. :) and drove about an hour to the church. We had eight people in a five seater car, and 22 people in a "Rockhill" van. Once we got to the church, we joined a Sunday school class.  We learned about how we find assurance through Christ and we can't save ourselves through works. After the class the service started. We sang many songs and there were scripture readings in between the singing. Then the pastor gave the sermon and afterwards we had the Lord's Supper. After the service we talked with Horte and then later, we all ate lunch at the church. We took a group photo and then piled back into the two cars and drove back to the house. The rest of the day was filled with games, singing, playing soccer, and it rained. After the rain let up we played soccer again and then went out and handed out flyers in the town of Camichines. When we were finished handing out flyers, we came back to the house and sat in the room again. We had our debriefing time and devotions."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

First three days!

Friends and family!

We now have access to a computer with internet. I had initially thought I could use my iPhone as a wireless hotspot, but we only have a simple edge connection down here! That means no 3/4G, no data transfer! Texts and calls only. However, Amy has been gracious enough to let us use a laptop that is hooked up to their limited wifi. I'm almost certain we'll be able to regularly use this computer to post daily updates.

Since we were off the grid until now, I have three blog posts that will be included in this post. The kids started blogging on the iPad when we left. After this, they should be in real time.

Thursday, July 24th
Gabrielle Sallard
10:20pm (22:20 for my military time homies... :D)

Hola from Camichenes! Today was one of the longest days of my life-21 hours packed into what felt like twelve, and it only gets better from here (minus the fire ants).

My day started with waking up around 2:30 in the morning, dressing and grabbing a quick breakfast before heading out with my sister, mom, and designated driver (Dad). We made it to the airport around 3:45, made it through security, and breakfasted and played math games while waiting for our flight. We boarded our first plane from Philadelphia to Dallas around 6:15, sent off by a sacrificial, loving audience of our families. The flight was predominantly uneventful, but I fully enjoyed the ride (as always), enjoying Hans Zimmerman and conversation with my mom and neighboring traveler while taking pictures of the view.

We landed safely, but spent around a half an hour waiting to pull into the gates before rushing to our connecting flight to Guadelajara. After taking off, I dozed for a while before walking to a breathtaking panorama of towering mountains as we flew over Mexico.

After landing, we were greeted at the entrance by Juan, a regular worker at Ranchito con Esperanza, and Arlene Acosta, Chuy and Amy's daughter. We threw our bags (minus Joe's guitar, which spent a lonely 24 hours in Dallas) into two vans and headed out for the 90 minute drive to Camichines. It was a really unique drive-we were pulled over by police within a minute of leaving the airport parking lot (several Americans in a big van piled with suitcases isn't an everyday sight, I guess), I rode in a foldout seat with no seatbelt and hit every bump on the road, and Laura fell asleep with the widow open and woke to being rained on near the end of the drive. The view was beautiful, and it was quite cool to see the street vendors... And the dogs. Lots and LOTS of dogs.

We finally arrived at the orphanage, unloaded and went over the rules and toured the building before relaxing somewhat. Stephen, Issac, Laura, Jamilyn, Ben, and I spent an hour kicking a futball (aka soccer ball) around the yard.

Dinner was a delicious meal of tuna and vegetables ("tuna con agua", as one of the kids labeled it), followed with a short excursion to the public futball pitch. We played one or two rounds (all under sixty seconds) of futball with the Mexicans there; while we failed epically, we had a BLAST.

We headed back and debriefed with devotions and thoughts on the day before crawling, exhausted, into bed (or the shower), keeping our eyes peeled for earwigs, spiders, and scorpions (Don't worry, we only found the first two). Chalk it up to an amazing, exhausting travel day... And it's only the first day! :-D

We are loving our time here. We hope you are all well, and we greatly appreciate your continued prayers for our team for the next several days.

Adios, Gabrielle "Gabe" Sallard

Friday, July 25th, 2014
Laura Boyajian

Today was a really productive day! We mostly did construction. I think we all got a good nights sleep after the exhausting day regardless of all the dogs barking and chickens crowing in the middle of the night. Anita, Sarah, and Jamilyn went to the kitchen at 7:30 to help with breakfast prep. After the team and the kids at the orphanage had finished eating, Isaac, Christiana, and I helped with the breakfast cleanup. We swept the floors, wiped down the table, and did a looooootttt of dishes (There is always an endless supply...) Then we joined the others with construction work. We sifted some rocks and dirt to spread on the playground and also helped make cement to make a clinic in the corner of the courtyard. That part was especially fun! I had to hold the bucket as another person lowered the cement machine so it would fill the bucket. I got splattered with cement but it actually felt really good!

While we were doing this Brianna and Jamilyn were teaching the kids a Bible lesson. We also sanded down one of the kids' play tables and two benches before painting them. A lot of the girls also chopped tomatoes for dinner and de-leafed cilantro. Ben Wilson also taught a drawing class to the kids in the afternoon. Later, all of the team members who could speak Spanish were paired with a child to listen to them read in Spanish and English. During this time, I was able to play with a young boy, the youngest child in the orphanage (2 years old). He was so adorable. We were playing with these giant Legos and we made the orphanage, a few cars, and a church. We would drive the cars to the church and then pray....Over and over again!

After weeding the garden and creating more cement (there were other workers laying it down) we had a little bit of free time before dinner. Isaac, Ben, Jose (The neighbor across the street that is our age) and I all played foosball. Then we cleaned up all of the supplies and gloves in the courtyard. After that, most of us played soccer in the street outside the orphanage with Jose and another kid. We had a really fun time and everyone really enjoyed it, whether they were watching or playing. 

Dinner was delicious! We had tacos as well as Coca Cola. I'm not sure why, but the Coke here is INCREDIBLE!!!!! Joe was also very happy to have his guitar back after Chuy went to pick it up on his way to run some errands. After dinner, our team met together. We sang some hymns and learned a song in Spanish to teach the kids. Mai-Khanh also shared a devotional and we talked about the day. As I am writing this our team and the interns are watching Inception on a movie projector! We're all having an amazing time. Chuy and Amy, the interns, and all of the people in the village are all so nice and welcoming. Hope everyone is having fun in the US! We're all having an amazing time but we miss you all!!!

- Laura

Saturday July 26th, 2014
Elisabeth Trefsgar

After a full first day of work, fellowship, and--especially for my fair-skinned sibling and I--warding off the intense Mexican sun, I was relieved to learn that I had been assigned to clean up duty indoors for most of this morning. It was a blessing to spend a little time under a roof, but also daunting-- I felt like I was intruding on our host family's lives and personal space as I was bumbling around the kitchen with Gabrielle and Anita. 

We attacked the pile of dishes left over from breakfast, trying to find Tupperware containers with matching lids for the left overs as the family launched into their day around us. One of the older girls kindly stepped in and helped us find the cupboards for dishes, talking as we worked. She expressed her excitement for the upcoming VBS program, saying that she and her siblings always enjoyed when teams came for that purpose. We learned she likes to read Nancy Drew books in her spare time, and that she has started to make new friends in her youth group this past year. It was good to learn more about someone we'd only ever seen from a distance, to put a name to a face and have a real conversation instead of rushing from job to job. 

We had to wash dishes after lunch too, but it was much more comfortable to walk into the kitchen of someone we felt like we were getting to know and serve them in such a practical--if a little soapy-- way. We sang a variety of songs with one of the interns while we worked, getting to know her a little better, too. We still had to ask where things were, and still felt a little out of place, but we also felt overwhelmingly welcomed into the home, and saw the family's gratitude for the work we were able to do. 

Tonight our host family took us out for dinner, and we had a chance to sit and talk and laugh after a long day. It was just another way that they allowed us not only into their home, but into their lives. Yesterday was awkward and uncomfortable at times as we were thrust into a routine without knowing how to effectively help and love our host family when we barely know them. Today, however, as I and most of my team made new friends and learned new things about the people we were here to served, every job we did was no longer just for "this family", but for the specific faces and personalities which make up the whole. 


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Greetings, friends and followers!

Thank you for visiting our blog! This is the blog for the Village Presbyterian Church Camichines (Mexico!) Mission Team, 2014! We are a team of 16 adults and teens from Southern New Jersey that are about to embark on a trip to the Ranchito con Esperanza (Little Ranch with Hope) children's shelter in Camichines, Mexico. Over the next 10 days, we will be doing various projects around the ranch, entertaining the children who live at the ranch, running a kids' club for the children in the town, and anything and everything else that there may be a need for!

Please be sure to follow and subscribe to our blog to see what we're up to! At this point, we're not sure how often we will be able to access the internet, so stay posted!

-Joe & Brianna Lombardo and Mai-Khanh Gunther, team leaders