Monday, July 14, 2014

Making Friends, Finding Courage, Praising God - FIJ 2014

Foro Internacional de Jovenes
Central America
La Buena Fe
July 5-10, 2014
Countries Present: Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and USA

Last week, we attended the International Youth Forum (IYF) in Honduras. It was an awesome time and by far the best IYF I have attended (this is my 3rd).

I was very nervous about going at first. For one thing, Spanish is still a bit of a barrier when it comes to meeting people. At first, it seems like I can't understand anything they are saying and they don't understand what I'm saying. It takes adjusting to the accent to get things going. For the other thing, we had just been asked to help out with the daily class and we hadn't completely worked through our plans to have an idea of how they would play out. We also didn't know how many youth would be in said classes. Many many unknowns. Ahhh!

As someone very smart posted online, "pray more, worry less."

As everything seems to do, it all worked out. GOD IS GREAT.

This week we studied the theme of Courage, so I will tell you about the week, by theme. Everyone arrived on Saturday, so everyone was just getting settled into their new sleeping arrangements and we had a church service with Carlos giving the sermon. Then, we got things rolling...

Day 1, Sunday - VALOR PARA AMAR (Courage to Love):

Each day started at 8am with breakfast, which always included beans, corn tortillas, and butter. So, I will remind you, this is a camp of youth, ages 14-24. Everyone was up and eating breakfast before 8am. What?!?! Then, because they got up so early, they all went in to the classroom to get ready for class around 8:45, that wasn't planned to start until 9:30am. So weird.

Anyways, we started everyday with a game and Sunday's game was Cliques. For this game, the caller says a number, and the players have to form groups of that number. If the caller says 5, you have to find 4 other people to be in a group with to equal 5 people. I think it is Carlos Mejia's favorite game. Other than playing in the sun, the kids seemed to enjoy playing it as well. This was the lesson on how not to love as many people got tossed out by their friends in their attempt at self preservation. It was really funny.

Then, we had class with Barb Carter. She taught them about Dwelling in the Word using the scripture 1 Corinthians 1-13. She shared about how our highest calling is to accept God's love and that we can only do that by spending time with God.

After class, Melissa and I organized activities and discussion questions for the small groups to go along with class. I was with the red group! Today, they decorated paper bags and then on 3 triangles, they wrote something they loved about 3 people in their group. Decorating their bags and talking made for some good first day bonding time.

The rest of the day went to eating, free time, a class on the sacraments with Gonzalo, and church with Steve giving the sermon on taking advantage of the different perspective they have as youth.

Day 2, Monday - VALOR PARA CAMBIAR (Courage to Change):

People were a little more normal and didn't wake up so early, but they were still on time. Erick, a translator for the church from Nicaragua, shared a game about fish and nets with us. It was kind of like a version of tag-ish.

Barb Carter preaching with
translation by Erick Potosme
Then, we had class where we practiced more with dwelling in the word. After that, we moved class outside and it was wonderful. It wasn't nearly as hot as in San Pedro Sula, because we were a little more in the mountains, but it was still quite warm. The breeze was very welcome. For class, we did the cross the line game where people had to stand up for what they believed and go from side to side depending on which thing they sided with. In case you were wondering, hamburgers are more popular than the local food called baleadas. I was surprised that more kids prefer to use the Reina Valera version of the Bible rather than the more contemporary language of the Dios Habla Hoy version. It was beautiful at the end of class when Barb said she stood with God and asked the kids if they did too and they got up and formed a circle around her and she said a prayer.

After class, we played Fruit Salad (Ensalada de Frutas), which then played into our discussion on change in the small groups. Also, on 3 leaf shapes, they were directed to write down something that someone else in their group did that they wanted to change in their own lives.

After free time, Carlos taught a class on the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood offices. That evening for church Barb shared the sermon on how we need to recognize the "invisible" people in our midst.

After the service, we had a campfire! It was a lot of fun to do, even if it didn't go perfectly. As it turns out, when people say they know a song, they don't actually know it well enough to do it. Note to self, always teach the song! During the campfire, Melissa and I had a chance to share about World Service Corps and strike up some interest in the kids. A lot of them seemed interested in participating. Hopefully, we can encourage them to participate. For many, it could be the only way that they ever could get to know a country outside of Honduras. And of course, no campfire is complete without s'mores, so we made those! A good number of people even came back for a second one. Success!

Day 3, Tuesday - VALOR PARA HACER LA DIFERENCIA/SERVIR (Courage to Make a Difference/Serve):

We were quickly running out of time, so we squished two classes into one day!

For the morning game, we played Who Started It? In this game, someone leaves the circle and a leader is chosen to decide when movement would be changed and to what. The person then returns to the middle of the circle and has to guess who the leader is, so you have to pay attention to who people are watching and try to catch the leader in the act of changing to get out of the middle.

Class Themes for the Week.
In class, Barb taught about Esther and how she put her trust in God to make a difference for her people. We did trust falls during class. Then, for the small groups time, everyone was given a mirror and popsicle sticks to make a frame. The idea was that they would say an affirmation while looking in the mirror to remind them that they can make a difference like Esther if they are willing to take a risk and have trust in God.

After lunch and a quick lesson in kickball, we had second class with Barb, this time about Jonah and the Whale. We talked about how we may make mistakes, but God won't punish us for them. No matter what, we should be ready to answer God's calling and serve. As it goes, we went to the background of the church's new campgrounds and started raking up the weeds. As we only had a few rakes, most of us were using sticks to push around the weeds, which oddly enough was semi-effective, but definitely not easy or the perferred method. I was miserable as I was hot, sweaty, bleeding from being attacked by a stick, and got my ankles got bit to pieces by ants. The kids seemed to be enjoying taking part in the work though.

That night, after everone was cleaned up, we went to church. Luis gave the sermon. It was so awesome. It was my first time hearing one of those booming, on the verge of yelling, type of sermons in person. But what was so great is that he was able to work in some modern day examples and even some jokes, while he was preaching in the tone of hell, fire, and damnation. It was a very inspiring sermon actually, but you had to listen carefully to it. He always wore a Looney Tunes or some sort of cartoon Christmas tie. It was hilarious.

The ol' boys were jammin' at the end of the talent show.
After church, we had a talent show. All of the kids that shared sang their favorite song from church, sang some inspiring song that changed their life, did some drama that depicted a story in the Bible, or a drama that had a meaningful message behind it. It was really awesome and they all did a great job. However, no one gave us the memo that talent show meant some talent that was churchy. So, when Melissa and I were asked to do something, we immediately started thinking about the campfire songs we knew in Spanish. We even found people to help us perform it, Erick and Jesus. So, right about the middle of the show, the 4 of us walk forward and start teaching/performing none other than "The Funky Chicken." It was hilarious and so much fun! But oh how it did not fit in with anything else any one was doing. Deborah, our MC, even said after us "back to the religious part of the show." So it goes. Everyone loved it.

Day 4, Wednesday - Pulhapanzak:

Love these kids!
Our last morning together started out with a photo shoot. We received our IYF shirts and then all of the kids wanted to take pictures. Each person had their own phone or camera and there were about 55 kids. You do the math. Lots of pictures.

At 10am, actually on time, we left to go to the waterfalls. We loaded up in a school bus. I sat next to Barb who got to sit against hot rice and the bus was blazing hot when still, so that was less than ideal. Otherwise, it was a beautiful day. We got our group photos done and then everyone was off in various directions. After enjoying some arroz con leche, I went with a group down to the bottom of the waterfall. We were a group of people from 4 different countries - USA, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras. Then, we went swimming, ate lunch, and did more swimming.

In the evening, once we were all cleaned up, we had the closing church service. The kids were not quick to talk, but once they worked up the nerve, man they could go on for days. It was nice to hear from them and we got a little bit of feedback on how everything went for them.

On Thursday morning, we took off at 6:30am. Not too many of the kids woke up to say goodbye, but some people sent us off. :)

Thank you to all the wonderful people that made this week so special!!!!

Foro Internacional de Jovenes, C.A. 2014
~nos vemos~

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hondurans. Honduran Food. Honduran Vocab. We're not in Peru anymore...

Las Nuevas Aventuras 

We survived our first weekend in Honduras. Not that I doubted that I would, but dude, we are in a whole other world here!
When we left Peru, it was the start of winter and the average high was 70 degrees AND there were days with blue skies! It was miraculous and beautiful. 

When we arrived in Honduras, it was at least 85 degrees at 8pm and humid, plus we were in long pants and jackets from the airplane. Welcome to the tropical Central America. 

Baleada Sencillo con Chicharron; Horchata
The best part about traveling of course is getting to try new food. First stop after dropping our stuff off at Carlos' house was to go eat baleadas. A baleadas is a flour tortilla with beans and butter on it. Yes, butter. It goes on everything! Also, it comes in near liquid form so you can just slop on copious amounts of it. Enjoy! Then, you can get scrambled eggs, chicharron, avocado, etc etc with it. Everyone we know that has visited Honduras says you must eat baleadas. Check! I thought it was quite good and definitely worth trying, but not the most amazing thing in the world. I will have to give it another shot maybe to appreciate their awesomeness. 

On Saturday, for lunch, we went to a barbecue place. Carlos kept changing his mind about where he wanted to eat and I think we ended up at the place we did so we could watch Brazil play Chile. Haha. It was a new restaurant for all of us. We ate pork, chorizo, beef, chicken, corn tortilla, chunky tomato and onion salsa, refried black beans, and fresh cheese. I thought it was delicious. And Brazil won (much to the disappointment of Carlos and Melissa)! Carmen and I were cool with the win. :)

Enjoying the Brazil v. Mexico game at lunch!

After church on Sunday, we went to the move theaters with everyone. While waiting for the movie to start, we wandered the mall and tried chocobananas, which are exactly as they sound. Awesome. It is a banana on a popsicle stick covered in chocolate and then frozen. They're healthy, right?!

Smile, it's a chocobanana!

Making tortillas is fun!
The other night, Isa taught Melissa and me how to make corn tortillas. Super easy. You just mix water with corn flour by hand until just mixed - a bit lighter/fluffier than the texture of playdough. Then you pat them down to the thickness you desire and throw it on a hot iron pan - no oil needed. Once golden brown, flip it over. In order to know if it is done, you push down on it with a paper towel and if an air bubble forms, it is done. We ate these for dinner with butter, scrambled eggs, queso fresco (fresh from Carmen's family farm), and avocado. Yum! 

This weekend we also got to experience the ministry here in Honduras. Everyone has advised us that it is quite different from other places - more of an evangelical/pentecostal vibe. Maybe we are just getting eased into things, but I thought it was pretty normal with a little bit of a mega church flare. 

The Band
Saturday night we went to church to celebrate the youth. Every so often they do an event to show their appreciation for their participation and dedication to the church. It started off with praise songs from the bands Sion and Nuevo Generacion (meaning youth/young adults from the band from the San Pedro Sula and Santa Fe congregations). So refreshing to have music led by people that know the rythm, can sing, and consist of more than a tamborine (no offense to Peru, where we had wonderful praise, just a pleasant change of pace here). Gonzalo seems to be the music leader and quite the musician. He sings and plays guitar, piano, and drums. After the songs, we had a mini-church service that Carmen led and Carlos shared some words of wisdom with the kids. Then, we ate some delicious food prepared by the church ladies = can't go wrong. To finish off the night, they did some games. One was a call and repeat action sort of song. Another game was where the leader said a word, and you had to sing a song with that word in it. We got home around 11ish pm.

Cupcake Spiral - Jovenes Ejemplares

It was a great opportunity to get an introduction to the church and most importantly, the youth, who we will be spending the next week getting to know and struggling with memorizing their names. Yay! (I hear we are going to have about 70 peeps in attendance!)

To continue with our church experience, we turned right around and got to church in time for the 6am service! We knew we were coming to Honduras to get to know the congregations. I didn't know that meant in the wee hours of the morning! I had to get up at 5am to be ready to go in time! It ended up being a really nice morning, though quite difficult to not yawn at times. Sorry guys, I tried not to. So from 6-7:30am, they had a more quiet and calm church service (which is all fine and good when you're in a prayerful, meditative mood, but slightly more difficult when you're still waking up from only sleeping for 4 hours, FYI). The next service started at 8am and went until about 9:20am. It was a bit more pumped up with the band starting the worship music. Also, we learned that we would not be asked to preach that day, so I felt a bit more relieved and could pay attention more. The final service started at 10am. This is the service with the highest attendance. The people that show up for the earlier services do indeed stick around until the end and then it fills in just before 10am. I think we had about 40-50 people in all. The most incredible part of the day was that youth showed up voluntarily at 6am and stayed until church ended around 12:30pm!

Praise Team
For the final service, Melissa and I were asked to share about our experience in Peru. It was good to get the first testimony out of the way. I always always feel like what I shared is less than adequate, but good to get the first one done, so that I know what to change for next time. It will be an ever evolving testimony, hopefully for the better.

It was interesting to be at church this Sunday because they just had their pastor resign last week, so they are in a phase of hurt and transition. They made a point of recognizing the priesthood in the church and making it known that are very important blessings to the congregation. The service ended with a Jesus style foot washing. Hermano Wilder made it a point to wash Melissa's and my feet so that we wouldn't leave without a Honduran foot washing. It was very sweet of him to keep us included even though we are not members of their congregation. There was lots of praying and crying, but also many smiles and hugs. Maybe a bit different than you would expect from how something like this would go over in the States, but not crazy awkward.

Church ended a bit after 12pm, so we headed to lunch. Unlike in CA, where we typically head to Wendy's, we went to Pizza Hut. Haha. Then, we went to a movie that ended up being in English with Spanish subtitles. Keepin' it (North) American.

And that was all we experienced in the first 3 days! There are many other details to share, but I'll keep it at that for now.

It may be uncomfortably hot, but we are adapting quickly and feeling right at home.

~nos vemos~

Hasta Luego Peru!

Leaving Peru

Wilfredo: One of the many faces we will miss from Peru.
On Friday morning, Wilfredo, Doris, and Graciela took us to the Jorge Chavez International Airport. The airport we pass every time we go for a run. The airport we have been picking people up from and dropping people off at all year. The airport we have been using for our domestic adventures to the jungle, Machu Picchu, CaƱon de Colca, and more. It was very bittersweet to arrive there that final time. After listening to planes taking off and landing all year long, now we would be on the next flight out and it would be officially "goodbye Peru."


Originally, we thought we just needed to get to the airport 2 hours early, but were advised to get there 3 hours early. Thankfully, we did get there a little closer to 2.5 hrs early. 

The other concern per usual was how much our bags weighed. Every flight from the States has a 50lb max weight limit, to my knowledge. Our bags had to weigh more than that! We very anxiously waited in line and then finally got to the front and asked...the weight limit was 32 kilos - that's 70lbs. Phew! Turns out my bag was only 25 kilos. Excellent. Also, why do I have so much stuff?! Anyway..

By the time we got our bags checked and our boarding passes it was practically time to board, hence it being good that we got there earlier than we thought necessary.

Monte Sion
So, for the 4th time, we said our goodbyes. (First goodbye at Monte Sion, second at Filadelfia, and third at home Thursday night.) It is very difficult to let go when you don't know when or if you will see someone again. 

It has been a beautiful year. We had our ups and downs of course, but all of it was totally worthwhile. We had the incredible opportunity to live and worship abroad in Peru for an entire year. We met the most incredible, loving, and caring people. They welcomed us in as their sisters, daughters, cousins, and nieces immediately. Plus, we got to know what an awesome country Peru is with it's rich history and soil. From the coast, to the mountains, to the jungle..we got a taste of it all (and it was delicious!). 

I can't say thank you enough to the Carlos, Paz, Yanqui, and Herrera families and the Monte Sion, Filadelfia, and Huanuco congregations for all they have done for us this year. Ha sido increible. 

Instead of saying goodbye, I really hope it is just "see you later."


Chimpum Callao!

~nos vemos~