Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mexico Trip 2007

From January 4-13 my family was in Mexico on a mission trip with our church. We had four complete families and parts of four other families go. I loved every moment of the trip. We had a lot of excitement, a lot of work (the inside of the church building is now covered with stucco), a lot of fun (singing on the walkie-talkies), and we were given such a huge blessing.

Note: All pictures below are shown chronologically and all names are given left to right.

During the two day journey down to Morelia, Mexico, the Youngblood van got stuck on the curb of the parking lot. We weren't sure what to do since the tire was trapped in a one-foot deep ditch. In the right bottom corner of the picture, you can see the muddy water covering the ditch. The guys tried to push the car several times, but nothing ever happened. We stayed there for about an hour trying different things from logs to posterboard all to no avail. Pushing on the left side of the car, you can see two Mexican men who stopped to help us. One of the men could speak English and he called a large tow truck which pulled the van out.

The scenery in Mexico is beautiful. The mountains were breathtaking, the lakes were shimmering, and the sky was gorgeous.

Here are the guys putting stucco on the walls of the church. They must have had "fun" because every evening they'd come back to the camp covered in a boy's dream--dirt.

Church was very interesting to say the least. The man standing on the left (named Ivan) would say a couple of sentences in Spanish and then pause while Mr. Norris translated in English. The teaching was about being in a battle against Satan, how we need to be soldiers of Christ, and that we should not be lazy or sleeping as if we were on the Queen Mary.

Kyle, Daniel, Caleb, and Paul. Roommates of the "Guys Cabin".

Canon and Princey were the camp horses who were allowed free range across the camp so the soccer field was a bit... um... unclean :-).

Has Paul found a robot?

Here we are setting out food for the potluck after church. I loved working in the kitchen during the week with the other ladies... young and old... because there was so much wonderful fellowship. We chatted about everything under the sun, laughed about the little things in life, comforted others going through difficulties, told a million comical stories, prayed some of the most fervent prayers I have ever heard, and, most importantly, I grew so much in my walk with God as we talked about our faith.

Every night we played volleyball in the gym as well as on Sunday afternoon. I rarely play volleyball in Texas, but in Mexico I did every chance I got. It's so fun even if I do miss the ball whenever I try to hit it.

Sunday afternoon we went to downtown Morelia. Here's a picture as we walked through the market. Bright colors... soccer shirts... strong smells... every vegetable imaginable... words I can't understand floating around my ears... leather shops... staring faces... stuffy air in indoor markets... figurines... fresh air in outdoor markets... so much to describe that I can't explain it in words.

The massive Catholic cathedral of Morelia. It was humongous! When we went inside they were having mass so we didn't look around long.

Our group picture. I loved traveling with each and every one of them. Such lovely people!

This kind of joy makes me want to stay a little kid. They're filled with happiness just by chasing bubbles.

This restaurant has given me so many memories and it's definitely my favorite eating place in Mexico.

Caleb, Paul, Daniel, and Kyle. This is Paul's favorite picture because all of his roommates are standing together by coincidence.

Big Abby (5), Little Abby (2), Mrs. Latham, and Noah (4). This was the cutest picture ever! On Tuesday, we went to the location where all Monarch butterflies in North America to the east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to every winter. To read more about the Monarchs go here. This picture was taken at the Monarch butterfly refuge just before we took our 2 mile hike.

It was a beautiful hike. Huge pine and fir trees... green... dust... a large clearing... trees... more green... dead butterflies...
"How much longer before we get to the butterflies? We must be close."
"Let me ask the guide."
*talks in Spanish*
"He says 5 kilometers."
"But they said the hike was only 3 kilometers to begin with!"
"They must have tricked us so that we would take the hike."
"Hold on."
*talks in Spanish again*
"Never mind, the guide said 5 minutes."
*long sigh*

Each one of those mossy looking clusters hanging from the trees are actually hundreds of Monarch butterflies. Can you imagine that in this one area there were millions of butterflies! It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. At the time of this picture the sun wasn't out (it was a cloudy day), but later the sun came out for a few minutes and thousands of butterflies started flying. What an amazing testimony of God's creation!

A butterfly crawled onto my shoe! Then it started crawling up my skirt and finally onto my hand! Did you know that butterflies tickle?

The friendly butterfly crawled from one hand to another...

Our missionary family. David, Abby, Mr. Norris, Josiah (in red), Daniel, Mrs. Norris, and John Mark. It's so exciting to see what God is doing in the lives of this family! If I had to describe them in one word it would probably be: enjoyable. You just love to be around them because they're fun and open. Open about answered prayers, how God has touched them, how God provided, how God is using them, or basically about anything God has done.

The one and only Hastings family. If I described my family in one word, I would choose either "Flexible", "Fun", or "Fantastic". I love my family and I'm glad God put me with them!

Abby's imitation of Christina. I interviewed lots of people about the trip and I enjoy listening to it at home. I have Abby's super cute interview of John Mark on tape too. Later they both sang, Away in a Manger in Spanish on tape.

I love this picture of my parents (even though my dad had purposely assumed the "your tax dollars at work" stance:-).

Here's a picture of most of the group on Thursday at the church building. I stayed at camp with a few others to watch the little kids and fix dinner.

Rosio, me, and Powlina. Talking to the Mexicans was probably my favorite part about the trip. The conversations were so funny because I only know a pocito (little) bit of Spanish. Basically I'd ask someone their name, age, whether they were from the city or the ranches, and if they liked volleyball (well, I think that's what I was saying). That was the extent of my knowledge of Spanish so then I'd move on to the next person to ask them their name, age, etc. I couldn't count how many confused looks I got when I tried to ask a question that I didn't know how to ask. Sometimes I could use hand motions, but normally I'd ask a Norris or someone in our group to translate.

The guys washing dishes after dinner which they voluntarily did every evening!

Saying goodbye to the missionaries and the camp on Friday. As they say: "Parting is such sweet sorrow."

One of many goodbye pictures.

On the way back to the States, we had seen this pillar of smoke in front of us for many miles. Some of the passengers needed a bathroom break so we stopped at a gas station about a mile short from the smoke. It was a blessing that we did because it turned out that a gasoline truck had exploded and was now burning on the side of the 4-lane highway. No traffic moved in any of the lanes. The vehicles just lined up for miles and miles. We stayed at the gas station for 2 hours! But without us stopping, Paul wouldn't have been able to do a wonderful thing. He witnessed to a bilingual boy named Jowani! And before we left Paul gave him his Bible. I wonder how God will water the seed that was sowed.

With all that said, if I had to name one thing that I learned it would be this: God uses ordinary people in extra-ordinary ways.


Monday, January 22, 2007

God Is Good

God is awesome. Period...
God is gracious. End of sentence...
God is loving. No matter what...
God is faithful. No exceptions...

Why is it so hard to totally surrender everything to our miraculous God? He will do a much better job than we could ever do.

Lord, grant me the grace to turn every area of my life over to you in total surrender.