Thursday, August 30, 2012

Captured Frames: Thailand

Enter Thailand.

 Land of smiles, bright colors, Thai pants (think Aladdin style pants), Thai chili peppers, pad thai, endless amounts of delicious, cheap street food, and countless other unique qualities that make Thailand an amazing place.

But beyond all of the excitement, enchantment, and mystery in Thailand, there is a heavy darkness. Human trafficking is a reality here. Sex slavery, exploitation, prostitution and trafficking are all very real issues in Thailand.

Thailand was "manistry month" for the guys of our squad, which meant all of us girls were on our own, as well! I headed south with my team of girls to Phuket, Thailand. If you were to Google Phuket, countless pictures would show up of pristine beaches, bamboo bungalows, and picturesque sunsets over sparkling waters.

And while Phuket is undoubtedly a sparkling gem of Thailand, and the world, it is laden with darkness. The heavy darkness of human trafficking. Our team worked with SHE (Self Help and Empowerment) while in Phuket. This ministry reaches out to women that are trapped working in the bars along the beaches, who inexitably get caught in prostitution, and in sex trafficking.

Tourists flood the beaches and bars along the beaches of Phuket, and the infamous little place called Patong. We ministered on one of the most notorious roads in Thailand, Bangla Road. In just a few blocks, they managed to cram over 200 bars, filled with girls wearing next to nothing, and full of men and women that have come to drink, party, and some find "love" for the night.

But it is far from love, what the girls that work in the bar experience. Our mission for the month was to go in and show them real love. Christ's love. By just talking with them. Finding out who they are, where they come from, and what they really want out of life.

It was tough, going into that environment almost every night of the week. But we were able to build some relationships, and share God's love in that dark place, and I know that we did make a difference.

Check out the video of our month in Thailand!

Also...this is the month that I drove everyone around in a crazy little truck with seats in the bed! Did I mention I was driving manual? On the wrong side of the road? Up and down a crazy, windy, mountain? Yup. It was an experience that I learned how to lean on God for strength in even the seemingly mediocre things like driving!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Captured Frames: Philippines 2

Since our squad spent six weeks in the Philippines, instead of the usual four, I made two videos for the Philippines. This video focuses on our time spent in Manila, after being in Malaybalay.

Favorite things about Manila:
Christmas lights and decorations everywhere (take note now on how much I love Christmas)
Jeepney rides for cheap
Celebrating Christmas with our squad with an amazing Christmas party, complete with a visit from Santa!
Connecting with some of the youth in Manila, especially doing a visit to the street kids. (Which I would recommend reading my experience here, called "Stolen on the Street". It was a huge moment for me on the World Race)

Check out this final segment of our time in the Philippines, our grand, chaotic, beautiful introduction to Asia!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Captured Frames : Philippines


A whole new continent, filled with bright lights, spicy food, crazy traffic and transportation, and what appears to be chaos all around. But in the brief moments between the noise of bustling cities and behind the flashing lights and looming malls, are beautiful people. You pause, breathe in. You smile at the beauty of life around you, the variety, the spice, the flare of life.

The Philippines was an incredible introduction to Asia. I ended up spending six weeks in the Philippines, instead of the normal four, due to flooding in Thailand (our original month 4 destination). So from the beginning of November to the middle of December, our teams lived, breathed, worked, and loved in the Philippines.

I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in the southern island of Mindanao, in a quiet city called Malaybalay. We got to love on kids there, then headed back up to Manila for our remaining time in the Philippines.

This month was the one time I really experienced heavy culture shock. And it wasn't in the way you would think it would happen. Our teams arrived to Manila the first time from Africa, there were Christmas lights everywhere, Christmas music (which, for those of you who do not know, I love Christmas). Manila was a bustling city filled with millions of people, (what seemed like) thousands of malls and shops, and more jeepneys (public transportation) than you ever thought were possible to exist.

We left to go to quiet, peaceful Malaybalay for ministry, and returned back to Manila three weeks later. I remember very vividly coming back to the rest of our squad who had stayed in Manila. Everyone was wearing new clothes (which is a big deal when you only have four outfits and you know most everyone's clothes by heart), had new things, and here we were, exactly the same. The city was suddenly ten times louder and more overwhelming. The five story malls seemed impossible, and the traffic horrendous. I wanted to crawl into a cave.

But God filled me with His grace and love, and He drew me back into Manila and helped me adjust and acclimate. But the Philippines was definitely where I experienced the most culture shock, but culture shock within the country itself. Quite interesting!

Take a look at our time in Malaybalay, plus there will be one more Philippines video to come, so keep your eyes peeled!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Captured Frames: Rwanda

Ah, Rwanda. 

I can still remember the shock, awe, and fascination in my mind as we drove through the capitol of Rwanda, Kigali for the first time. There were street lights, stop signals, paved roads, shops with huge glass window panes, center stripes on the road, a downtown area that was clean, and even a mall. 

It's funny looking back now at just how in awe I was. But it really was such a blessing, ending our time in Africa in Rwanda. I remember when we arrived at Pastor's house, and we saw a mini-fridge, a TV, and we all had a bed to sleep in or share, it was just humbling. I wanted to cry for joy. 

There was a deep joy in Rwanda that I was drawn to. While the country suffered from a terrible genocide not even twenty years ago, hope is rising. Healing is happening. Rwanda is moving forward. And I was blessed beyond words by all the families we met in Rwanda, and the hospitality and generosity we experienced there.

Check out the video footage and pictures of all the blessed children and people we encountered in the "Land of a Thousand Hills"....Rwanda. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Captured Frames: Uganda

That moment when you have a mini heart attack making a turn and suddenly wonder if you turned into the correct lane. Yeah, that happened today. That's how you know you spent some time driving on the wrong side of the road across the world. It still gets me from time to time.

But here we are, looking back at Month 2 of the World Race in Uganda, in September 2011.

Uganda was a month of difficulty for me. It was a challenge physically, spiritually and emotionally. Physically, I had black eyes for two weeks from our white water rafting adventure down the might Nile River, and also got malaria here. Spiritually, there was great darkness and oppression where we were in Uganda, and as a team we had to unite in prayer and stand firm in battle. Emotionally I was still trying to figure out my identity in Christ, and what that meant in my life.

It was a powerful month, even through the difficulty. Because of the many challenges that we faced, we rose up to face them, and God stood with us. There is no greater force than our Almighty Abba, and it was extraordinary to sit at His feet, even in my many moments of weakness during this month.

There are many smiles, faces, and memories that I will not soon forget in Uganda. Check out our time in this country...complete with my bungee jumping experience, white water rafting adventure, and my almost broken nose. Enjoy!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Captured Frames (Videos from the World Race)

It has been almost two months since I touched back down in the United States of America. That's crazy/weird/strange. Two months since my ears were surrounded in stereo by people speaking in English. Since that day Y Squad had our last customs check, and were told "Welcome home" by the United States customs officers. The day that I wept saying goodbye to the forty some people that have become dear family to me over the past eleven months. And the day that I began a new season.

But now is a time to reflect back on the World Race. A year ago, I was in Kenya, Africa. A smile comes to my face, and a laugh, remembering the novelty of it all. Experiencing a new culture for the first time. Stepping onto African soil, seeing a herd of wild zebras on our bus ride to Kitale, experiencing the crazy public transportation in Africa known as matatus. Everything.

I can still see the countryside in Kapenguria.
I can still hear the Soikan family, and the laughter and love.
I can hear the roosters crowing at ungodly hours of the morning.
The rain on the tin roof.
I can hear the laughter of the children in the field, shouting "mzungu! mzungu!" any time we walked outside the house.
I can feel the grass beneath my feet as I run with them playing soccer and frisbee.

Now I want to share these pictures and videos with you. I have made a video for each country I served in on the World Race, and will be releasing them on my blog over the next few weeks! Today will be my first month, Kenya. Enjoy a look into what my life was like around the world this past year!