Today was a nice change of pace since we got to Riga from camp. We spent the morning debriefing the past week at camp. What was a highlight, what was challenging, and how did you see God work in camp? We all shared the answers to those questions as we recounted the busy week. It was a great, productive time for us. In the coming days as we shift back into our lives, we will run through a series of emotions that will range from joy to missing the students.
Tomorrow is a free day and the team is still tired so we will spend a casual day in old town Riga and have lunch and gelato and probably dinner. Wednesday we will get an early start for our journey home.
Today we went to church service and a lot of students came to church. That was super encouraging. We said our goodbyes to the Latvian church team, the interns and the students one final time. We then made the journey back to Riga where we will spend our two remaining days before coming home.
One of the important aspects of a trip like this is to spend time debriefing the week. Emotions are running high from the joy of relationships built with students to exhaustion from a busy week. As the team begins to process the trip for themselves personally we want to hear what challenged, what encouraged and just hear about their impressions of camp.
Tomorrow we will begin that process of debriefing with our team and Josiah Venture staff. An experience like this takes time to process and so I will have a deeper debrief in a coup of weeks once we all settle back into our schedules because we will each be feeling different emotions at different times and the Lord will help us process the trip as we seek what the Lord would have us do after a trip like this.
We will then spend some time celebrating the camp and do some sight seeing. The weather may make some of that a challenge since it looks like we will be in for a couple of rainy days. We are in the final stretch of the trip and would ask you to keep lifting us up in prayer for health, rest and safety.
Whew! The end of camp has arrived and we all have mixed emotions. We are tired, but we really loved spending time with the students and we are already missing them. But we will get to see a number of them tomorrow when they come to church. After church will be our final goodbye to Limbazi and the Latvian team and students we have had the privilege of spending this past week with.
The last day was jam-packed with Program, English, Workshops, Afternoon program and games. At the end of the day the inevitable tears came as students expressed their appreciation and goodbyes to us. There is joy in seeing the impact of our work through the week and a bit of sadness because it has come to a conclusion. Many students asked about next year- in fact, beginning on the second day they were asking about next year. We tell them that we don't know but it is possible.
Tomorrow we worship at church again and then head back to Riga for a couple of days for debriefing and rest before returning home. We can see the finish line but I ask for your prayers for us to finish strong and stay healthy for the remainder of the trip.
Today was a busy day with the usual camp activities of English, workshops and sports. But today was also very different than the previous days because the students heard the gospel during the program time this afternoon and then go through the Labyrinth that is a personal reflective journey about God's offering the free gift of salvation for those who want it.
We had been praying for the students to have open hearts as they heard the gospel story. Early reports from the Limbazi church team says the students had a great experience with the Labyrinth.
The day started early as a few of us joined in on a men's breakfast at the church. We joined in on a Bible study where we were studying John 10:1-18. It was great tomspendmtimewith some men from the church. Today was a great day at camp but everyone looked a bit tired from swimming the day before. Relationships with students is continuing to grow and the students we find are much more conversational in their English outside of the classes than in the class. That's okay, the point is they are talking and sharing a bit of their lives.
One of the interesting comments I got from a student about Americans is that she really enjoys our team because Americans are so warm and outgoing. That is culturally very different in Latvia. People pretty much keep to themselves and it is rare for someone to say hello on the street or engage in conversation with someone who is serving you as a cashier in a store. They don't know you so there is no reason to say anything. As Americans some of us do like to talk with people that are serving us or saying hi to someone on the street just as a courtesy. It's an interesting observation. Most of the students have really warmed up to us in camp now that we are 4 days in. That's great especially with them hearing the gospel tomorrow. We are praying for the students and the group leaders as students respond and react to the gospel story and consider the decision that is put in front of them.
Everyone is definitely feeling the grind of camp. We need to find space to catch our breath. A half hour break here and there helps re-energize the tank. The team is doing well and staying healthy so we appreciate your prayers. Please continue praying for the latter stages of the camp and that the Lord would draw students to Himself.
Our day three at camp started like the other days so far- campers reported to camp at 10 am and we had our morning meeting, video and journal time. What happened after that was a surprise to the campers, well mostly, because we told them to bring appropriate clothes and swim wear. We loaded up and went to a lake about 10 kilometers away from the town to enjoy a day of relationship building, swimming, paddle boating, cooking lunch, the talk, discussion groups and finally the all-American favorite s'mores.
The weather was perfect and the day was fun for everyone. Tomorrow we resume our schedule from English camp. We have three days of camp left so we just got over the halfway mark of camp. During our team meeting tonight after dinner, I encouraged the team to stay focused and energetic to push through to the end of camp. We still have a lot to do and we are working on building deeper relationships with the kids and being that bridge to the local church leaders at camp.
I've been especially encouraged because the church's pastor has been here most of the time and he has been leading the talks to the students. This is not the norm- so the fact that the pastor is here also building relationships with the students is a huge win for this camp. I'd ask you to join us in praying for these relationships that are developing as the students hear the gospel this week. Many seeds are being planting and we are trusting the Lord for the fruit.
So we just completed the second day of the camp and you may be wondering what happened to day one. My apologies- yesterday was crammed with so much activity and then prepping for day two that I didn't get to bed until 1:30 am. and just couldn't squeeze a post in. Day one was a mix of chaos, craziness, and wonderful moments by God's grace that I would refer to it as a beautiful mess. We've had 32 campers come with one more coming tomorrow making it 33. I had been praying for 30 and Anna and Ingus, our camp directors, had been praying for 40 to come. All I can say is Praise God! We are full, stretching at the seams and stretching our resources to accommodate this great group of students!
Our second day was great as we had the chance to continue building relationships with students. This week our team is constantly thinking and challenging themselves to "be the bridge" to the local church and the local church team that is leading the discussions with the students. I think the best way to describe our day is to let the pictures tell the story...
This will be a short blog post because we've been busy setting up for camp this afternoon and it's now almost midnight- still kind of light out too by the way. We had a wonderful experience worshipping this morning at the church we are partnering with for camp. It is so good to be with brothers and sisters in Christ from another culture expressing our love for God. The beauty is language doesn't matter- we all can express worship in our own language and God gets it.
Pray that our first day though likely chaotic, comes together well with the campers finding out which class they will be assigned to. We need lots of energy so they are excited to be here. We certainly are, but we are a little drained from the work of preparing the school for camp.
Today was a pretty laid back day as our team and the intern team hung out together swimming at the lake, playing volleyball and basketball all the while hoping to connect with local youth. The lake was busy with a lot of families celebrating the holiday weekend. We didn't encounter a lot of youth hanging out in the areas we went looking. But we are excited that we have 25 students registered for camp.
Tomorrow we have the honor of worshiping in the local church we are working with. We are super excited to meet the church family as well as experience our first Latvian service since arriving.
After church we will be going into full camp mode as we will meet with all three teams and hit all the day by day details of camp and transform the school into the camp facilities. Then on Monday we will start the first of our six day camp. We would love and appreciate your prayers that all the logistics and details come together without serious challenges.
We've been praying for this community and asking the Lord to use us this coming week to connect people to the local church we are serving and that we would be a reflection of God's heart for the people here.
Today our team finished our orientation session in Riga. I have to say I am super appreciative for the orientation sessions designed to prepare our team for the upcoming camp. I feel like our team has a good idea of what to expect even though we still have much to do to be ready for students on Monday morning.
The intern team we will be working with joined up with us at the hotel. After lunch we all got on a bus for the trip to Limbazi. The rest of the afternoon was spent settling into our accommodations at the school and getting to know our new friends. We then had dinner at the church where we had a chance to meet the Limbazi church team and enjoy great food together.
Tomorrow will be a bit laid back and preparing the school for the camp- setting up classrooms, meeting rooms and audio visual equipment. I didn't take many pictures today but I have this one of the church:
Please pray for our final preparations and that there be clarity for all the logistics for camp come together in the next couple of days.
Yesterday we spent the bulk of the day in orientation for camp. We changed up our schedule so that we could spend time in old Riga last night as Latvians began celebrating a two day holiday event ushering in the summer. Yesterday was Ligo- a celebration for the shortest night of the year, is an ancient celebration where nature and fertility are celebrated. Jani, which is the celebration for summer solstice, marks the longest day of the year. There are traditions of burning pillars of fire from sunset to sunrise, making wreathes out of various flowers, wheat and leaves and most importantly, singing and dancing. All of these traditions are pagan in origin because they predate Christianity.
We had a chance to walk around the the beautiful old town in Riga, listen to a lot of music and join thousands of people gather along the banks of the Daugava River watching performances of traditional Latvian folk songs. It was definitely cultural experience that was interesting to observe while we are here.
Our missing luggage was recovered and brought to us yesterday so everyone has their bag and we now have all the equipment for camp. We spend a half day today finishing our orientation before setting out to the town of Limbazi where we will settle in for the next week and a half. We will be spending time in town with some activities, preparing for camp, go to church on Sunday and the camp starts
on Monday morning and run through Saturday.
This afternoon we will meet the rest of the team for our camp- the Josiah Venture interns and the Limbazi local church team. I'm excited to get our three team together. Pray for unity and the details of camp. Latest report has 25 students registered for camp and I know through some activities over the next couple of days, we are hoping to recruit even more students.
I am hoping for wifi at the school where we will be making no our home for the next week and a half. If we have it, then I will continue posting to the blog. If you don't see anything for a few days, you will know that we have internet challenges.
I'm with a team that left the States on Tuesday to journey to Latvia for a an English/Sports Camp with Josiah Venture in the town of Limbazi. We have arrived minus a few of our checked bags. That's a first for me. I've been fortunate over 10 years of leading trips that all our bags arrive with us- until now. We are praying that a couple of our team members are reunited with their personal bags and the third bag containing many of our camp supplies shows up before camp actually starts on Monday. Surely they will right?
Our team is now in the midst of adjusting to the 9 hour time difference and getting a little cultural perspective as we venture out into Riga today and start our orientation for camp. We've got a great team and I'm excited to meet the interns and the local church team we will be working with for the next couple of weeks.
Please pray for our continued adjustment to Latvia and for our bags. Oh, and another one of the adjustments is getting used to sunrise at 3:30 am and sunset at 11:30 pm- that's a lot of daylight!
It's now Thursday morning and I'm just getting around to catching up on updates. We had a busy last couple of days preparing to come back home. On Tuesday we went up to Desire to say our last goodbyes to the kids. That is always a tough time because it seems we only just arrived and began rekindling old friendships and many making new friendships. But we closed our time praying for the children of Desire and Pastor Jeannot also prayed as he gave thanks for our team making the long journey to spend time with the kids.
When we arrived in Port au Prince we had the chance to visit with the Pathways students from Desire. They had been anticipating our visit for weeks and we had the chance to catch up with the and hear how their experience is going with the program. The time was short but on a very deep level it was meaningful to them and to us. The gravity of seeing these students being transformed from orphan to thriving young adult is astonishing and I wish there was an easy way to put it into words. My prayer is that every orphan has an opportunity like this when they reach the age of adulthood. That's a very big vision- a God-sized vision but one that only through God's provision could happen. Seeing lives transformed is an incredible encouragement for my own faith journey.
Yesterday before heading to the airport we had the opportunity to see Life SA. This is the facility that manufactures clothing in Haiti and is also where t-shirts and other clothing apparel and accessories are created (http://goex.org/ ). This was amazing to see because there are currently a number of this past year's Pathways graduates working at this facility. You can see the photos below.
After a long journey from Haiti back home, our team is now resting after an amazing trip and I am excited to debrief and hear how God has impacted them individually and what He has placed on their heart for a next step of action. I encourage any of you ready this blog to ask lots of questions of our team because I know they would love to share how God used them this past week.
Today we had to say goodbye to our friends in Desire. It was definitely tough for all of us. We had some great times together. It always seems like we are just getting going when we have to say goodbye.
While saying goodbye was hard in Desire, we had a wonderful reunion with the Pathways students from Desire. Currently there are six young adults in the Pathways program. Pathways is a program for orphans who have reached the age of an adult. At 18 years, students can no longer be in the orphan care system of Haiti. The Global Orphan Project started Pathways over two years ago and the third class of Pathways started this past fall. Three guys from Desire are on track to graduate this August while the other three are in their first year. Pathways provides life skills, discipleship and learning a trade to help prepare them for adulthood. The goal is to turn out great young men and women who end their Pathways experience by having an "above living wage" job at the time of graduation. It was great to see the Pathways students from Desire and spend some time catching up with them.
Tomorrow we begin our journey home with an arrival close to midnight tomorrow night. Please pray for our safe travels. The team is excited to return home so they can share their experience. The team is also a bit sad to leave because Haiti truly is a special place.