This has gotta be the good life

“Hopelessly
I feel like there might be something that I’ll miss
Hopelessly
I feel like the window closes oh so quick
Hopelessly
I’m taking a mental picture of you now
‘Cuz hopelessly
The hope is we have so much to feel good about”

~OneRepublic “Good Life”

As I’m reflecting back on my latest trip to Oaxaca it made me realize a few things that I’ve been struggling with for a so many years.

The second afternoon when I was reconnecting with my spiritual parents, and was relaying everything that had taken place since they had moved to Oaxaca, was when it struck me. And I’ve been contemplating on it ever since.

I love serving in my church youth ministry. I love my job. I love how unique my family is (and how we’ve grown closer over the last couple years). I love serving on short term mission trips, and how each time I have been thoroughly enriched with deep experiences and lasting relationships. I love how I have so many different and amazing friends for every part of my life and that I can share my dreams, hopes, and ambitions with them.

I am blessed in ways that I truly never grasped before. I was always rather forlorn that “this” hadn’t happened yet, or “that” hadn’t happened yet, that I never truly was able to just be okay with my present.

But I’ve realized, how content I really am with my life – and I had not felt that way, well…ever. I think for the first time in my life I feel…content.

But you want to hear about my trip, so without any further delay, here we go. 🙂

We arrived in Huatulco, Oaxaca on Saturday, May 7th in the afternoon and was quickly launched into ministry. That day was the nationally recognized “Children’s Day”. A local pastor that we were going to be partnering with that week had organized a children’s event, kind of like a little festival, with music, dancing, dramas, giveaways and everything! It was so awesome to watch the children being celebrated that day. Most of these children had walked miles just to come to this event that only lasted a couple of hours. But for them, it was the world.

After the children’s event, the pastor and his team took asked us to come down the road with him to a plot of land that they were believing to purchase to build their church building on. They have huge vision for their area. They want to build a church that will accomodate 1,000 people, as well as a residence for the pastor, a visitor’s apartment, classrooms, a kitchen, and more. The small sum they are believing and praying for to accomplish this work: $90,000. So we spent the next moments praying and joining with them in faith for this to come to pass.

We stayed in a quaint little hotel in Puerto Angel that night. The next day was Sunday, so we had an amazing church service in the hotel’s restaurant. Though I digress – after breakfast, but before church started, we all went down to the pier to watch all the fishermen bring in their catch. It was actually quite fascinating. Some of our group even asked the fishermen on the pier if they could fish, and the little Mexican guys were ever too obliging. Those were some great and entertaining moments. 🙂 But back to church – the Leadership College’s leader, Chris Myers spoke on how your life changes when Jesus gets inside your boat. His analogy was about a friend named Tony who threw something inside his own boat when he wasn’t expecting it. Somehow I think I know who this Tony is. The worship was awesome and the church members were so welcoming of us. After church, we all changed and went down to the beach so we could get boated out to a little lagoon so four of the church members could be baptized. On the way there we saw some manta rays in the ocean as our boat flitted and coursed over the waves. It was pretty cool! The little lagoon wasn’t so little. It was actually part of a tourist attraction complete with a luxurious hotel built into the rock-faces. It was a little odd to see men walk around in their Speedos as the baptisms were going on. Only on a missions trip.

  

  

Our team then went our separate ways that afternoon – the LC’s staying to do more outreach and ministry in that town, and myself and the rest of the construction team (Don, David, Mike, Brad, and Kristen) heading to Roca Blanca Mission Base. We had some amazing Enchiladas Verde that evening at the mission base (probably the best and most authentic meal you’ll have while you’re there) and met the families that we would be serving that week. We settled into our rooms that evening, and I got to know my new roomie for the week, Kristen.

Monday kicked off a week of beautiful sunrises (early alarm clocks) and awe-inspiring sunsets (late bedtimes). That first day of work was spent at the home of Vidal & Norma and their precious teenage daughters and young son. (Their oldest daughter in graduating high school soon with honors and has chosen to go to university to be a doctor. This is quite an accomplishment for someone who has grown up in near poverty.) This family’s house had been constructed for a few months, however it was lacking the necessary floor and walls, having only a dirt floor and sheets as walls. When we arrived they had got their walls up, which were bamboo slats cut in half and assembled together to create a sun/wind block. For that entire day, together with Vidal’s brothers/father-in-law/cousins/any-male-relatives we worked at mixing cement to pour and lay their floors. It was such a hot day, and the humidity was stifling. I spent the day pulling 5-gallon buckets of water for them to add to the cement mixer, (and sometimes buckets of sand…but that wasn’t too many times). It was great to see the end result of our work three days later when we returned to have a celebratory dinner with the family. We were presented with tacos and coconut bars and bright lights. This was the first time this family has ever had electricity! This was certainly a call for celebration!

Tuesday we made our way to Diego and Betty’s house. They already had constructed a nice brick house with walls, ceilings and cement floors. We were just going to lay the tile for them. Mind you, these were not typical floor tiles. There were heavy, handmade, clay tiles. The process was to transport them into a tank of water so they could soak so that when they were laid, they could adhere to the cement better. This was a hot and strenuous job. The guys laid the tiles, while myself, Kristen, and anyone else readied the tiles. By the third day of doing this, nearly didn’t have fingertips left. If I hadn’t thankfully acquired a pair of gloves from our leader, Don, I’m sure they would have been bleeding by the end of the day.

  

Tuesday afternoon posed a treat for myself, however, as I got to spend time with my friends Rebekah, Arnulfo & Caleb Rios, and Angie, Berna & Bryson Cruz. The Rios’ are pastors of a church in Nopala up in the mountains, and came down just to spend the day with me! I was truly blessed and excited! And the Cruz familia were visiting from Wisconsin and it was their last day before returning home. After much deliberation, we decided to go into Puerto Escondido for coffee and pastries at Cafecito. Once we got there however, we ditched the expensive coffee idea and instead got a value frappe from Oxxo (a fairly popular Mexican convenience store). It was quite tasty, and affordable at only 23 Pesos! We did however get pastries from Cafecito. Since it was dinner time, I had a ham and cheese pastry, which could be compared to a warm and flaky Hot Pocket. It was so good, and really hit the spot. Afterwards, the girls needed to get shoes for their little guys (Caleb who’s 3, and Bryson who is 2). So we went to a market that was down and around the street (I think…I sort of felt lost after all the driving). It was interesting to see all the various vendors with their wares. Produce, meat, sweets, clothes, shoes, basically anything and everything you could ever need or want, or not. 🙂 Once adequate shoes were found for the boys, the Rios family had to jet back to Nopala, so I got to round up the evening with the Cruz family. As it was their last night in town, Berna was wanting Tlayudas (a large grilled taco-like food). Since I’d ate earlier I wasn’t hungry, but I did get a nice cold Sangria. Tasty, and non-alcoholic. 😉 And nifty enough, it was Mother’s Day in Mexico on that day, May 10th, and the little taco shop was giving away handmade mugs decorated for Mother’s. So since I wasn’t home for Mother’s Day, I have a unique gift for my mom.

  

Wednesday again, we spent the day at Diego & Betty’s house working on the tiles. But that afternoon I was able to do a little design work for my missionary friends, James & Cassie Olson, that live and help run the mission base. That was a nice and fun change for me, as I’m not used to extreme physically laborious activities performed in the heat. 🙂 Wednesday evening we joined up with the reset of our team, the LCs, in Puerto Escondido at a Christian-operated rehabilitation center for men struggling with addictions. These men, of all ages, have dealt with debilitating addictions to drugs and alcohol. But as they smiled and welcomed us to their evening church service, you could see the joy of the Lord on their faces. What warmed my heart though, was as the worship set began, and these men just began worshipping with undignified abandon. Dancing, jumping, praising, hands-raised wild worship! It left me in speechless wonder. 🙂 As the evening progressed a few people from our team got up to speak, with translators, about their own struggles with addictions. Michael and Justin spoke about how drugs and alcohol controlled them at various difficult points in their own lives and how Jesus gave them freedom from these addictions. Kristen shared how her life as a PK expected to perform with perfection led her to start cutting herself, and how moving across the country and surrounding herself with good influences (church, people, friends) was able to free her of this addiction.

  

On Thursday, the day started pretty well. Wonderful breakfast of fruit and eggs, and then we all made our way to the chapel to spend a short time in worship/prayer before going to our posts – the LCs to teach in the school and the rest of us to our construction sites (to completion at Diego & Betty’s and to start at David & Gres). We were trying to bust it out to finish all the tile work at Diego & Betty’s house, and it went fairly fast, only having to soak and prep 70-some more tiles. However, about 11am I got to feeling very hot, sick to my stomach, and dizzy. I just thought it was the food or something getting to me. But that didn’t seem to be the case. I was taken to the clinic at the mission base and met with Nurse Laura who determined that I was suffering from dehydration. I got to drink this nifty rehydration liquid (it was pretty nasty, haha!). After taking my vitals again, and talking to the doctor, they decided it would probably be best to get an IV of fluids into me, as any other method would take hours longer. So I spent the next couple hours chilled to the bone (in Mexico nonetheless!) and getting my first IV. My good friend Viri took real good care of me during this time, making sure I had anything I needed and just offering consolation that I’d be okay. Once the IV was emptied, Viri walked me back to my room, crackers and rehydration fluid in hand. I spent the next few hours tossing and turning in bed, trying to sleep off the effects of the dehydration. By the end of the evening, I was feeling much better, albeit exhausted.

Friday we headed out to drive to Huatulco to spend our last full day as “tourists” in a day of fun. Our first stop was at a neat little Belgian chocolate and Coffee Shop. James jumped in to help make cappuccinos as everyone placed their coffee orders. As a coffee aficionado, it was one of the best lattes I’ve had in a really long time. Coupled with a chocolate-topped pastry, it was a delectable breakfast.

  

As the day drew on, however, I began feeling horrible again, and was not able to enjoy any of the touristy stuff that we were doing. We made our way to another little restaurant as lunch time arrived. It was exceedingly hot though, and adding that into the equation, I really didn’t think I was going to make it through lunch. And I didn’t, unfortunately. I was able to down a half a bottle of Coke (the wonderful Mexican Coke!), and only a few spoonfuls of lentil soup. Bradley had to eat my chicken, so the sight of it wouldn’t make me sick. Which I was super grateful for. Another great friend, Danbi, took me back to the hotel and got me settled. That’s when waves of sickness overcame me. I was kind of panicking, to be honest. It’s a scary thing to be sick in a foreign country, without your close loved ones to take care of you. But Danbi was amazing. She sat me down as I was balling my eyes out as my stomach roiled and prayed healing over my body. She got me settled into my bed and left me with bottles of water and Gatorade and Pepto Bismol tablets, air conditioning filling the room. For the next four or five hours I slept fitfully. But about 5:00pm the precipice of the illness hit and I got violently sick. For the next two hours, the sickness just left me, and I was able to relax and a calmness flowed over me. During this time I roamed my hotel room, and eventually settled on turning on the TV. Grasping at hope, I needed an English program to come on that wasn’t dubbed in Spanish. And praise be, “Friends” was on, and it was in English, and only subtitled in Spanish! Nothing really soothes a soul than a little piece of home when you’re in a foreign place and not feeling well. After I felt considerably better, I called to rejoin my group. They had just finished dinner at a pizza parlour in the city center, and were going to go souvenir shopping.

  

  

The rest of Friday evening, and part of Saturday morning, I was able to get some really nice souvenirs for my family. Including some really great, fresh-roasted coffee! You can’t leave Mexico without taking some of the coffee with you.

So overall, discounting being sick and dehydrated, it was a really great trip. I was able to serve in ways that I never would, or ever think I could. I was able to spend some valuable time with friends that I only see every couple of years. And I was able to truly see how God has blessed my life.

**Stay tuned for an all-foto blog post later on…

*No geckos were harmed in the making of this blog. Well, at least not on purpose… 😉

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