Thursday, November 11


Several months ago, someone gave us very good advice. "Don't bash the country you are living in," they told us. "Especially in front of your children."
Now, this might not sound like a big deal, or might not seem that it would be difficult advice to follow. It is.
No matter where we live, we are still very American. We are American in our thinking, our way of getting things done, in our expectations, and that can cause quite a bit of stress in our daily interactions.

We expect to order something and have it arrive on time, from little things like food to big things like construction materials for team projects.

We expect to be able to go to an ATM and get out cash.

We expect to pay the same price for vegetables that the person next to us is paying.

We expect to have the customer service we'd find at say, a Target store.....things like employees offering to help find something, or opening another register instead of requiring people to wait in line for 45 minutes, or not stocking shelves in the busiest part of the day in a 3 foot wide aisle.

Difficult? You bet. There are times that we complain and whine about how things are messed up. And yet, when we stop, take a breath and remind ourselves that people are mainly trying to survive, to get through the day, it changes our perspective and gives us a bit more patience.

Now, we're not perfect at this. Far from it. I still haven't gotten used to riding the chicken bus and having my foot stepped on 14 times or being shoved out of the way in the market, but at least I don't take it personally anymore. Well, mostly.

My wish is that, one day, when we move from Guatemala, whether it's to the States or to another place, we will be able to hold onto the lessons we're learning here, that we'll never adopt a sense of entitlement or superiority, and that we'll remember to look behind the differences and see the similarities....that people are people, with the same hurts and desires and hopes, no matter where they live, that we will consciously choose to look for the good in people.

Another good friend gave us more valuable advice. She told us to remind ourselves that, "It's not wrong, it's just different." So, on those really crazy days when we are tempted to see everything in a negative light, we repeat that phrase.
 A lot.
And sometimes even out loud in the middle of that so-very-unlike-Target store. Until we can say it and mean it.

Sunday, October 17

Happy Birthday, Nate!

It was the perfect fall night.
The stereotypical fall night, actually. The smell of woodsmoke, the crisp air, the changing leaves. And it was the night that I realized that my life would never be the same.

A week earlier, I had given birth to a 9 1/2 pound baby boy. Now, my whole pregnancy had progressed perfectly. No problems, no worries. Until the end, when things just started to seem "off" and I began going in more often for monitoring. This normally would not have been a huge cause for alarm bells to go off in my head, but, tragically, two of our friends had lost babies very close to their due dates, and so I began to worry. A lot. I began to obsess with getting my baby born, healthy and whole. I knew if I could just make sure he made it through delivery o.k, then I could breathe a sigh of relief and all would be back to normal.

Wow. I really had no clue what was about to become of my peaceful little in-control world.

First of all, nothing went as planned for the delivery. Nothing. I had imagined some scene out of a movie where I'd be looking spectacular, with freshly-applied lipstick and perfect hair. Perhaps my mom or Steve would be blotting my face and  bringing me sips of water. Yep. None of that really happened. I know my mom and Steve were fabulous during the whole ordeal, but I clearly did NOT look amazing and I did NOT have the storybook moment of bonding and happy-crying and holding my baby immediately. Instead, 36 hours into labor, we made the difficult decision to have a c-section, and then our son was born blue and unresponsive.

All I remember was thinking, "This is not happening. There is no way that he is not going to be ok!" I kept sending Steve over to check on him, and I know now that he was trying to comfort me, because he kept coming back to tell me that, "He's fine!" when, in fact, he wasn't.

I didn't get to hold him until that night, and although he was covered with alarms, wires and had an I.V. stuck into his little arm, he was beautiful, and I marveled at the fact that he belonged to us.
We were very blessed, because our story ended well and happy after that initial week in ICU, and I know that others don't have that happy ending.

I think it was this understanding that gripped me on that perfect fall night. We'd left Nathan home with my mom so we could take a stroll, just Steve and I. And that's when I began to panic. I'd been banking on the fact that, once he was born, I wouldn't worry about him like I had when I'd been the only person who could care for him, and now I was shocked and actually scared to realize that my heart had been laid wide open by this little person, and that we were totally, utterly responsible for him. I was scared to death.

And yet, somehow, here we are 12 years later. Miraculously, he is healthy, well, happy, strong, and one of the most amazing people I know. When I say it is by the grace of God, I don't exaggerate. We have walked (and sometimes been dragged!) through some heavy stuff, and so we don't take a thing like a birthday for granted. We celebrate like crazy people, because we know just how blessed we are to have each other.
And really, isn't this how life is? Things rarely turn out the way we, job, marriage, parenthood, you name it.

The challenge is whether we get stuck in the "what if's," the "I-can't-believe-this-is-my-life" pity party, or whether we believe that there is a Greater Love, a greater plan, a greater hope.
And even if there are still difficult times ahead, and even if it still doesn't turn out the way we'd wanted, we don't have to waste today worrying. We can just take a breath, enjoy, and choose to be grateful.

If I could go back and talk to that very young, very scared new mom, I'd tell her that she would not believe how ridiculously fast the years would pass, how many things she would wish she'd cherished along the way, and how, no matter what, it was all going to be o.k.

Then I'd tell her to throw her hands up, let go, and enjoy the ride.

Happy Birthday, Nathan!

Sunday, September 26

El Es El Camino - He is the Way

This is the official name for the new community built for 12 of the families who lost their homes in Agatha. No less than 5 different churches have worked together to clear land, dig ditches, and build 6 homes from July through September.

We expect the remaining 6 homes to be built by the end of October, and remaining infrastructure (bathrooms, kitchens, electricity, etc.) should be completed by the end of the year. But, it's also about building relationships.

Here are a few photos of the outreach opportunities with the families impacted by the storms.

South Tulsa Baptist Church shares their morning devotions with over a dozen workers from the city of Pastores.

Pastor Ted Shares the Gospel with 10 of the 12 families who will receive houses. The mayor of Pastores is reading his copy of the Bible (one was handed to each family and worker), and Abner (Steve's co-worker) helps translate.

A Pastores worker reads his new Bible during his break.
Some of the young construction workers show their new Bibles.
The families visited their new homes (that were in the process of being built), and were also given baskets of clothes and food as a house-warming gift.
Steve with Abner and Mayor Miguel Lopez of Pastores.

Storms, Slides, Statistics & Surprises

Three tropical storms since June have caused hundreds of major landslides in Guatemala leaving: 175+ dead, 10,000 evacuated and 40,000 homeless.  Even as we write, rain pours from Tropical Storm Matthew and we receive double the normal rainfall this year.  Vital crops are failing, hunger and disease loom.

Hopelessness... helplessness.  

This is the state of mind of many in Guatemala.  

We are blessed to have a church focused on the broken-hearted, and our goal is to meet needs to heal both physical and spiritual needs.  Many like-minded churches have joined us this year to turn hopeless situations into incredible opportunities to showcase God's love and power.

In spite of the obstacles, many Christians have arrived to share laughter, friendship, hard work, and encouragement.  

Here are a few pictures of the devastation only 5 miles from where we live.  

Floodwaters broke through this retaining wall (click on the image for more detail)
Pastor Tim and Jeanette in front of a home destroyed.  The family will be re-located to the new homes being built.

Here's a few pictures of some of the team activities not deterred from the storms:

One of the families who lost everything from the storm and are being re-located.  Calvary Baptist Church of Winter Haven spent an hour with this family, distributing clothing and sharing the Gospel in addition to building a new home for them.

We shared God's love last week with men from a homeless shelter.

Pastor Ted from South Tulsa Baptist Church and Pastor Mike visited another pastor and his family near Antigua to find opportunities to help their church on future team visits.

Abner (co-worker with Steve) translates the Evangi-Cube to children at a VBS near Antigua.

Saturday, September 18

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From My Kids

Before I became a mom, I used to think of myself as a pretty intelligent person. Little did I know. Now, every day, multiple times a day, I am asked questions to which I have no. earthly. idea what the answer could possibly be. Why, oh why didn't I pay more attention in science class? Or history class....or math class for that matter. 
Thank goodness for Google and Wikipedia. They save my pride more times than I care to admit.

Other than the prolific amount of academic minutiae I am re-learning with my kids, there are emotional and spiritual lessons to be had, too, and so many ways that I realize I have grown up way too much and need to remember some simple, childlike qualities, such as...

Forgiveness. It always amazes me how kids are so quick to forgive. You apologize, and they are over it. And then later, when motivated by the ever-present "Mom Guilt," you re-apologize, you are bound to hear, "Mom, you already said you were sorry." Oh yeah. I did. And I guess I really am forgiven. Amazing.

Wonder. I used to walk down the street and be grossed out by insects, snakes, and rodents. Not anymore. They are now a stimulus for examination, discovery and discussion. That roly-poly? I used to find it annoying. Now when I see it crawling across my floor, I know I have to call in the kids, because someone is bound to want to hold it for awhile. The other day, I saw a 6 foot long snake when I was out running. My jumping-up-into-my throat heart was thankful it was dead, but my next thought was how I wished I could take it home to the kids, and how they would love to check it out. What on earth has happened to me!?

Laughter. My kids recently informed me that children laugh hundreds of times a day, and that adults only laugh a few. It's so true. I want to adopt their attitude of finding humor and joy in every little thing, from blowing bubblegum until it pops all over your face to going down a slide into a freezing cold pool and not minding a bit. The things that I find passe, they find exhilarating. This was never more clear to me than when Jack and  I were going through security at the airport and he kept asking me WHEN we got to take our shoes off, because that was "his favorite part." Really?? Never would have crossed my mind to find fun in that before, but now I certainly will.

Appreciation. When the power goes out, as it did last night,  I get frustrated. For my kids, it is a chance to build pillow forts in the living room and snuggle up in them with a book and a flashlight. There's no distraction from a computer or a movie. It's simply time to be together and maybe even take advantage of the darkness to see how much brighter the stars appear.

Love. I was always told that there is no love like the one you have for your children, and while that is more true than I ever could have dreamed, no one prepared me for the love that they give in return...

 Unconditional. Never, ever concerned with how I look....they could care less about that. 

Uninhibited. There is never a shortage of hugs and sloppy kisses and "I love you's."

Unquestioned. They never agonize over how they feel. We love each other, and that is it.

So, I don't think I'll let today go by without a little extra squeeze for my kiddos, and maybe a stroll down the street for some ice cream. Just because. Oh yeah. And that cricket that kept me awake last night? Maybe I won't mush it when I find it. Maybe I'll share the wonder over it, just a little.

Sunday, September 12


I realized, only by looking at my calendar, that it was Grandparents' Day today. This is not a holiday that is celebrated in Guatemala, and I don't remember it being a big deal when I lived in the U.S. However, I felt very sentimental this morning, because it was a reminder to me that I only have one grandparent left. And it was also a reminder that I have been blessed to have so many happy memories of my grandparents. Because of that, I do believe I am an expert in what makes a Good Grandparent, and is the definitive list (or, in any case, my opinion)
A Good Grandparent always shows (or feigns) interest in whatever topic a grandchild wishes to discuss. One must be prepared, because this could encompass any topic, from the ever-so-enthralling detail of what said grandchild ate for breakfast, to the origin of black holes, to the question of which is the most dangerous animal on the planet.
A Good Grandparent delights in serving nutritious, delicious meals to his/her grandchild. The meal usually consists of an icee composed of sugar and red dye #2, washed down with a Mountain Dew. For balance, you see.
A Good Grandparent is an expert in the art of good-night storytelling. The story must be exciting, adventurous, and yet, at the same time, devoid of anything scary or nightmare-inducing.
A Good Grandparent never tires of answering questions, especially those that begin with, "Why?"
A Good Grandparent can make up, er...I mean, accurately recite, stories from his or her childhood in which he or she always ends up being the hero.
A Good Grandparent keeps toys and books around, even though she may not see her grandchildren for months.....just in case.
A Good Grandparent is never too busy to put down an all-important project in order to dance to a song, or drive down the road to see a horse, or listen to a silly knock-knock joke and pretend NOT to know the answer.
A Good Grandparent makes a grandchild feel like he is the most interesting person he has ever met, and that nothing could be more exciting than what they are doing together at that moment.

 I am incredibly blessed to have had grandparents who gave me a rich treasury of memories, and even more so to have parents and in-laws who are giving my children the same gift.
Happy Grandparents' Day indeed.

Friday, August 13

Beach adventure: Life in Guatemala!

Well, my latest adventure was when I went to the beach. First, I played in the pool at the beach with the team. Second, we went on the beach. I made sand-castles, swam in the waves,and rode a  ATV! It was awesome! Mr. Ric and I got chased by some dogs-twice! Then Pastor Andrew's ATV died!
( it means it wouldn't go anymore)! So we went to get help. We told the life guard, who went there.
He fixed it, and we returned the ATV's. I'm riding the ATV with Mr. Rick in the picture!

Monday, July 26

A Major Step...

It's not very often that you can step back and get one of life's bigger perspectives. This weekend we had one of those.

After 2+ years of coordinating teams from the United States to help the hurting, forge new relationships, and spread the Gospel here in Antigua, Guatemala, we had the opportunity to do just that again. But, this time it was at a whole new level... without teams... and mostly our own church. It all started a few weeks ago when some local students approached our church to ask for help organizing some event details, and, through that relationship, they invited us to present the Gospel at the clinic.


This kind of stuff doesn't happen every day. A group of over 20 volunteers from our church quickly mobilized to share games, face-painting, coloring, testimonies, music, and children's Evangicubes to clearly share the Gospel. Over 70 families were seen by the doctor, and over 70 families heard about the Great Physician. One of the Police Chaplains prayed with each family as they left the doctor's office, and one person accepted Christ. Incredible!

This was also an event that our whole family got involved in for several hours, and it was a great opportunity to get perspective on why we're here... one person at a time.

Wednesday, June 9

Sand in My Suitcase

I'm not a fan of unpacking. Now packing a suitcase, that's a different story. There's so much anticipation, the imagining of what the trip will be like, the expectation of reuniting with family and friends, the excitement of a long-awaited vacation from the daily grind.

But unpacking is bittersweet. And when I do it right after arriving home, like I did this trip, there's more bitter than sweet.

Oh yes, there's still the thrill of unloading all of the things we were blessed enough to purchase, the fun of putting them in their new places.
But there's also the sand. And the sand is what brings on the tears.

You see, on this trip, we got to share three amazing days on the beach with our family, soaking up the sun, the waves, and each other. While we were there, I had an epiphany: when we lived near family and friends, we all too often took them for granted. We knew we could see them anytime, that they were just around the corner...and while we saw them as often as we could, we didn't cherish that gift like we do now.

But on vacation, we simply lived life with those we love.

I got to wake up each morning and drink coffee with my sweet friend Melanie.

I got to watch her kids and mine pick up their friendship right where they'd left off.

I had the luxury of spending a couple of hours walking to and from Starbucks with my sister-in-law and brother, hours in which we shared our thoughts and our hearts with each other.

I got to make an early morning donut-run with my grandma, a woman whose shared wisdom is precious to me.

I had plenty of delightful, "let's just hang out together" time with my niece and my brother.

I spent priceless hours on the beach with my kids and loved watching my dad and mom watch their grandkids.

I had the talks I can never get enough of with my mom...the kind where we can go from oohing and aahing over cookbooks to telling our hopes and dreams for each other in a matter of minutes.

And so, while the sand-encrusted swimsuits in my suitcase (and the myriad of shells I fished out that eventually ended up in the bottom of my washing machine) made my heart physically hurt with the missing, and while the tears I'd tried to squelch came was impossible for me to forget just how ridiculously blessed we are.

To have family and friends who love us and express that love to us.
To spend hours with those we love and have the freedom to debate, to laugh with (and at!) each other, to accept and actually like each other.
To get to see them as often as we do and know that, for that brief moment, we will all put the busyness of our lives on hold in order to take advantage of every hour together.

So, I'll take the "bitter" in the unpacking, because I got to taste the sweet, and now I get to savor the memory of that.
I'll dump out that sandy suitcase and hold onto those memories.

And dream about next year.

Tuesday, May 11

Oh No He Didn't

This past weekend, we enjoyed a long-overdue getaway to Lake Atitlan. It is the deepest lake in Central America and is shaped by three volcanoes.
We swam, canoed, read, ate, and just relaxed together as a family. The surroundings were breath-taking.
And peaceful.
Until Jackson decided to share his wildly entertaining personality with the other guests.

Steve & I were sitting by the pool taking in the view of the lake and keeping an eye on Jack, who was splashing around in the hot tub. The quiet moment was interrupted when Jackson suddenly stood up and announced LOUDLY, "Dad, I just peed in the hot tub."
And again.
I jumped up, not quite in time to stop him from announcing it AGAIN. LOUDLY. I told him I'd take him to the bathroom. At this suggestion, he replied, "I CAN'T STOP!"

At this moment, all of the other guests, who'd been very politely pretending that they couldn't hear our sweet little boy could not hold it together any longer, and everyone completely erupted in laughter.

Steve managed to get Jackson out of the tub while he (Jackson) was in mid-sentence informing everyone that, "It's weird, because the hot tub doesn't smell any different now."

More wild laughter.

We hustled him off to the restroom, and joked with the other families that we were pretty sure we wouldn't have to share the hot tub for the rest of the day. All was quiet again, and everyone went back to their reading and relaxing.
Until Jackson ran back to the pool and let us all know, "I didn't have to go anymore."
Surely our proudest moment as parents.

Wednesday, April 28

Well, This Was a First

Building houses is something that our teams do here. A lot. There's always a huge need for decent shelter for families, since many of them live in conditions that Americans would call slums.

Two weeks ago, a team from Georgia was here and built a home for a family of 4 living together in one room. And not a very big room at that. Our people constructed a much bigger, more sanitary structure that would keep out the rodents and insects and keep the family safe from the elements. The family was so touched by all that was done for them that they decided to make a special gesture of gratitude.

Now, this is not abnormal. Typically, a family who is receiving a home does not have much to give monetarily, but they will do things like buy drinks for the team or maybe share some treats. But this time was different.

The young woman of the family announced to our team that, to show her gratitude, she was going to change her son's middle name.
To Steve.
As in OUR Steve.

When Steve heard this, he was a little bit in shock, but he quickly recovered and posed for a picture with his new namesake.

Good thing "Little Steve" didn't seem to mind much either.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 14

Two Years

Two years ago today, we landed in Guatemala....two very tired adults, three extremely excited children, and 27 suitcases containing all of our wordly belongings.

Much of that day is a blur to me, but I do remember lunch at McDonald's (and wondering at the fact that a Happy Meal could cost $20-some didn't. It was Quetzales). I also remember finally settling down into bed for the night, and being shocked when said bed began to move across the floor. And then the walls moved. And everything else. When I realized, Floridian that I am, that this MUST be an earthquake, I decided that we'd probably made a mistake and should head back to the States.

The last two years have been full of incredible highs....and incredible lows as well. I think the best way to describe the adventure we've been on is to compare it to marriage and parenting. Some days you love it and can't imagine anything better. And some days, you ask yourself, "What was I THINKING?!" You know there's a bigger picture and you hold onto that even when the daily minutiae seem like they will overwhelm you.

Last night at dinner, each person in the family shared their bests and worsts of the past two years in Guate. Some were funny, some were poignant. But the bottom line was this: we all feel great peace and great fulfillment in living our lives for a purpose and trying to live in a way that reaches beyond our own needs and wants to help other people. That's not meant to sound arrogant in any way. It's just that, on those difficult days, we find comfort in knowing that we're doing exactly what we're supposed to be doing right now.

Lest I make us sound TOO spiritual.....when it was Jackson's turn to share his "worst," it didn't take him long to announce that it was this: "missing shopping at Target." Have to say, I'm right there with you buddy.

Saturday, April 3

I Can't Say it Better Than This

CS Lewis:
There is a stage in a child's life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas or Easter. I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began 'Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.' This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety. But of course the time will soon come when such a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity. He will become able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and festal aspect of Easter; chocolate eggs will no longer seem sacramental. And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs; if he puts the eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweetmeat. They will have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life.

Wednesday, March 10


We've been terrible bloggers this year, mostly because, to be honest, it has been an overwhelming year so far for the Ottos. We've faced the death of my Grandma, Jackson's surgery, sickness, difficult situations in the lives of some friends and family, and well, just plain life in another country.

Here's how I'd summarize the last few weeks:

1. Grandma. I already wrote about her in my last post, but it always surprises me when I think about her and remember, "She's not here anymore." I'm glad she's happy and strong again....but I'll always be sad that there's one less person like her on this earth. I miss her.

2. Jackson. This boy does not do anything half-way. His surgical experience began with him leaping up onto the gurney, ready to go. Everything went just as smoothly as it could have, for which we are unendingly grateful. It's still a wee bit stressful to have your little guy go under the knife in a Guatemalan hospital. I'm still amazed at the peace we had as we made the decision, though, and the incredible gift God gave us of sending my mom down that very week.

3. Mom. I can't say enough about this. Except maybe I can, because if I start, I'll just end up blubbering. Ah well. We enjoyed almost 3 weeks of relaxing, laughing, talking, watching stupid movies, being tourists, talking, spending hours in the hospital, coffee-drinking, cooking, talking....just doing life together. And this house is way too empty without her.

4. Sickness. Before we moved here, we rarely got sick, rarely went to the doctor, never had a serious medical situation. Since we've lived here, we've experienced an onslaught of illness and injury, and while they've all turned out well, it takes its toll, especially these last few weeks.

5. The, um, interesting way things roll here. Let's just say that we've felt the earth move, literally, underneath us. Nothing, absolutely nothing at all like what people in other places have been through, but very! exciting! especially in the dark. Although the kids think it's quite fun to run outside at 2 a.m. in their pajamas. What's so wrong with that?
Then there are the "usual" challenges like: having the water go out for hours on end, power lines blowing up and blowing out some of our electronics (nothing valuable...thankful for that, too), and even just the general chaos around town as Easter season kicks in.

The bottom line is that, despite the stress and plain craziness of the last couple of months, we are all here, we are all healthy, we're all not only still speaking to each other but still loving each other.
I've actually gotten to see my kids step up and pitch in to help when I was sick. And they've simply blown me away with the gentle, sweet way they've taken care of their brother after his surgery. So, I don't know if I could honestly say that I'm thankful for the difficulties, but I am thankful for the beautiful things that those difficulties reveal, the things that you hope you are planting all along and that, when given the chance, really do bloom.

Wednesday, February 3


My grandma passed away this past week. I have felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude when I think about all of the memories of my childhood that involve her. She was a huge part of my growing-up years, and that is precious to me.
She was the type of person who never sought the spotlight, although she could have. She was a very gifted seamstress and baker, and won accolades for both of those things, yet she never bragged about them. She let my grandpa do that for her, which he was more than happy to do.
The part of her legacy that I am most grateful for is the way she valued family. Even as they got older, she and my grandpa would load up their car with goodies for us and make the long drive from Florida to South Carolina to visit. The whole point of their trip seemed to be to shower us with love....and lots of candy. They succeeded.
I was blessed to live near my grandma again a few years ago when we moved back to Florida. I remember trying to take her out to lunch or breakfast, and she would forever insist that she pay for the meal. In fact, the very last time we saw her, in December, she was pretty upset with us when she realized we had paid. We got away with quite the coup there.
I think my daughter Shelby put it best when she looked at a picture of Grandma today and commented, "She doesn't even need her walker anymore. She can run now and not even get tired." Yes she can. And that is the dichotomy. So happy for her that we would never wish her back here, and yet sad for us to be without her love, her quick sense of humor, and her yummy cookies. I love you, Grandma.

Sunday, January 3

What We Do

Because I tend to be the blogger in the family, and because my main ministry IS to my family, that's what I seem to write about...the day-to-day joys and struggles of life in Guatemala.
But I thought it would be good to blog about some of the other things we've done this year.

When we knew God was calling us here, we also knew that this was something that would need to involve our whole family. We were passionate about the fact that it wouldn't be just a "job" that Steve would go do, but an adventure that would involve each of us. And it has been just that.

The main thing we do here is help bring mission teams to Guatemala, and to host them while they're here. Steve is with the teams from the time they land in Guatemala City until he takes them back to the airport a week later. Well...he does get to come home for some sleep. He's very good at what he does, because he is excited about it, and other people catch his passion. His heart is to take people out of their comfort zones, to show them the need that exists around the world, and to pray that they leave here changed and ready to serve the body of Christ in a new way.

Because I homeschool, our kids are able to join the teams on different days. They've been able to go to the malnutrition center to love on the kids there. They've taken part in VBS outreaches, they've helped build houses, and they've climbed volcanoes. I don't know yet what fruit this will bring in their lives, but I am so thankful that they've gotten a glimpse of a world so different than what they've always known in America.

I've also gotten to join in with some of the activities, and I've gotten to be an assistant in the kitchen, where we cook meals for all of the teams. The best part of this is just chatting with the team members and hearing their stories.
I'd have to say that my favorite parts of ministry this past year were participating in the worship team at church and teaching English classes. I taught a group of 20 students who were very eager to learn English. If they can do this, they can get a much better job, so they were very motivated. And they were just plain fun! We shared a lot of laughs together as they learned new English words and I made many mistakes in Spanish, which they found very amusing!

When I reflect back on 2009, I am reminded how God is so huge, so in control, so purposeful and personal in our lives. He is writing a story that we never could have imagined. He is so loving that He allows us freedom within that story, and yet He will check us and guide us when we would choose a way that would not be for our best. I don't always get it, but I can look back and see His hand all over it. And when I see that, I know that the ending will be better than my wildest dreams.