The beginning of the end

It's February 23rd, 2015. The end of our journey. We have been counting days, planning and prepping, anticipating, feeling nervous, feeling excited, feeling emotional about this trip for hundreds of days. And now, here we are. At the end. It was an incredible blessing and gift. We learned things about ourselves, about God, about each other, about serving, about patience, about unconditional love, about gratefulness, about faithfulness, about laughing, about crying, about stepping out, about telling the truth even when it's hard. We have learned that we can love people that we have only just met. We have looked right into the face of Jesus through the cute little faces of our little friends. We have learned what it feels like to be exactly where God wants you to be. We have felt frustrated. We have felt strong. We have felt weak. We have felt sick. We have felt restored. We have sometimes lead, and sometimes followed. We have heard from God directly. We have eaten a lot of rice and beans. We have conquered fears. We have been on adventures. We have done and seen things that we could never have even imagined. But I think that most of all today we have felt grateful. This trip was not our doing. It was a gift to us from all of you. None of this could have happened without your support. God has used you to give this gift to us. We don't have enough words to say thank you. This experience has changed. us. It has changed the path of our lives. We will be able to look back on the last 2 weeks as the beginning of something new. And that is because of God's faithfulness and your willingness to support and love us through this. How can we thank you enough? 

Our debrief weekend was incredible. It was much needed, and God had many things He wanted to do and say to us in the last 2 days. Our friends Omar and Alyssa (and their son Elias) ministered to us in really amazing ways. They were the voice of God to us, and helped us process through what we just went through in Belize. Thank you Oms and Lyss for being so faithful to God, and willing to serve our team. You changed us. We are better now having known you. 

We are all checked in at the airport in California, ready to head home. I think there are mixed feelings about heading back to Saskatoon today. Some of us feel ready, some of us don't. But I think we all know that it's time. It's time to start a new chapter, and come back home and try and live out the lessons we have learned while we were gone. Please be patient with us. We want to come home and face you with smiling faces and happy hearts, but it's not always easy. We miss the jungle. We have been through a lot, and are still trying to work through what we have learned. We are tired, and happy, and sad. We need your hugs and your love and your patience. 

We arrive in Saskatoon on West Jet flight 276 arriving at 12:58am. We are excited to see you! Just a heads up, we are going to take a few quick minutes together as a team before we come through security to see you. We just need one last moment together as a team, to say our goodbyes and feel ready to face the reality of home. We will be as quick as possible, keeping in mind how late it is. Thanks for your patience with that. 

Thanks so much to all of our faithful readers. We felt a strong sense of community through this blog, and we appreciate your kinds words and encouragement so very very much. I'm glad that you could share in this trip with us. 

To the team, who finally gets the chance to read the blog. We love you and are immensely proud of you. You served with all of your hearts. You loved richly. You did all the right things. You never complained. Thank you for being amazing and inspiring young people. It has been an honour to share this experience with each and every one of you. True. 

With the fullest of hearts, 

Austin, Ryley, Kim, Tyson, Taylor, Sarah, Terry, Emma, Kaden, Adonica, Jaima, Bobbi, Taryn, Ali, Whitney, Nicole, Taylor, Jackson, Jesse, EJ, Jake, Brett, Corwin, and Kristin

PS... a special Birthday shout out to Adonica today. Love you girl. 

We Made It!

Hi everyone! Just wanted to check in quick and let you know that we made it to California. Everything went great today. It was an early morning, and we're feeling pretty tired, but we're in our first debrief session with Omar and it's great! I'll write more later when I get a chance. Just wanted you to know that all is well. 

Also, I forgot to let you know that Terry's tooth pain is gone and Kim is feeling 100%. Yay!  

A slight change in plans...

Hi everyone! I'm sure you've been refreshing this page non stop to hear news that we have made it to the States. Yes, we are in the USA. But no, we are not in California... not yet! Our flight was delayed out of Belize by an hour and a half, and we only had an hour and a half lay over in Houston. We tried really hard to make our connection in Houston (these kids can run!), but we missed it by 10 min. But no worries! United has put us all up in the Hyatt for the night. The team is in the restaurant grabbing a quick bite before bed. We are leaving Houston tomorrow morning at 8:50, and arriving in Santa Ana at 10:30am. It is a slight delay, but honesty things went so smoothly at the airport. By the time we ran down to the baggage claim, they already had our boarding passes printed out for tomorrow's flight, and they got us to a hotel as quick as possible. The team is in good spirits. Everyone feels sad about leaving the jungle, but happy about things like hot showers and comfy beds. We are still on track to start our debrief tomorrow with my good friends Omar and Alyssa. We will have a session with them as soon as we get to the hotel tomorrow morning. 

I am going to stop writing, because I know you are refreshing every few minutes to hear that we are safe and well. All is good! I'll let you know tomorrow when we reach California. 

If you wouldn't mind praying for me (Kristin), I managed to catch a pretty bad cold yesterday (in 40 degree weather... not sure how I pulled that off). Pray that it passes quickly... thanks so much!

Blessings....
Kristin 

And just like that.... it's nearly over.

Good morning from our last full day in Belize! 

I have had the best of intentions on updating you guys, but the jungle isn’t cooperating. I’ve been fighting with the internet every night to try and post the blog. Here’s the blog from the last couple of days…. take 3!

On Wednesday we had a really great day jam packed full of stuff. It was market day, and we headed to the market first thing for an authentic Belizean breakfast. Eggs, beans, fry jacks and freshly squeezed juice. Everyone really enjoyed it, and we had a chance to wander around the market a bit and buy some souvenirs. 

After breakfast we headed straight to the old King’s Children’s Home. For those of you who do not know the story of King’s, it was only a little over a year ago that these kids were living under very different circumstances. Right now they are living in a huge and beautiful facility about 20 min outside of the Belmopan city limits. A little over a year ago they were still at their old house, which is right in Belmopan and is smaller than the houses that you and I live in. There were about 75 kids living in a tiny little house. Up to a dozen kids sharing a room. Eating in a kitchen that was made up of one stove, one small stretch of counter, and a sink, sharing one bathroom. It was incredibly small, but it was home. It was a safe place for so many kids who needed it. Miss Leonie raised over 500 kids in that home. It is such an interesting experience to take a team for a tour of the house. The new KCH is nice and big, but it doesn’t feel too big. It is the right size for the 100 kids who live here. So after spending a week here, going back to see where all of these kids grew up is kind of shocking. But it is so obvious to all of us that the old home is special. We spent about 40 minutes just walking around in silence. Going from room to room, imagining what it was like when all of our little friends lived there. God has provided in such a tangible way for these kids, giving them a home that is safer, bigger, and better for them. But He was also faithful in providing that love filled tiny house where they grew up. It has been empty for over  a year, but we were still able to feel the love that the kids had for that place. It is always an emotional experience for me to go back to that home. That’s where I watched all of these kids grow up. Some of my very best memories in life were within those 4 walls. For those of you reading who have been down to Belize, I’m sure you can close your eyes and picture what it was like to sit out on the playground, or have devotions with all the kids in that tiny little living room. There are some amazing memories in that place, and it was so powerful to be able to share a little bit of that with this team. 

After our teary visit to the home, we grabbed a quick lunch at YWAM and a quick ice cream come at Spanish Lookout (a nearby Mennonite community) and headed to a small village called Unitedville to lead a Kids Club there. There is just something about the kids in that place. We were only there for about 3 hours, but some of the team were close to tears when we had to say goodbye. They are fantastic kids, and we became instant friends. We played on the playground for a while, then Sarah, Bobbi, Jackson, and Taylor and Taryn did an amazing job of leading some fun songs with the kids. About half of the team was involved in acting out a Bible story (Jesse was Jesus, seemed like a good fit with the hair), and then Sarah, Taryn, Brett and Taylor each shared a little bit of their testimony with the group. It was awesome to watch the team step up and take leadership. They have some serious talent!

After Kids Club we headed to San Ignacio for supper at an awesome restaurant called Hode’s, which is located right in the middle of an orange orchard. Such good food, such amazing smells! 

When we got home we surprised everyone with a little impromptu tarantula hunt. I know… hunting tarantulas… sounds crazy right? I promise you we were safe. We had a fun time, and believe it or not everyone held one! (except for Bobbi and Adonica, who opted for an early bed time instead). There’s just something about the jungle that makes you want to face your fears. We have some epic pics to prove our bravery! 

Yesterday we good a day off and headed out to the islands to experience a little of Belize’s awesome tourism. We charted a boat out to Caye Caulker, and went snorkelling. We got to swim with sharks! At our second snorkelling sight we first got in the water with about 15 nurse sharks and about 10 sting rays. It is always a huge highlight for me to swim with these amazing animals, and everyone did so well! There was very little squealing and screams. It takes a minute to get used to be surrounded by so many big animals in the water, but it’s truly an incredible experience. On our boat right back to the mainland we were met by a family of dolphins. Our captain turned the boat off, and they came right up to us and swam around and beneath our boat for about 5 minutes. It was without a doubt one of the most amazing and majestic things I’ve ever seen. There are rarely days that are as awesome as yesterday was. 

Today we are just finishing up the work project on our last day at KCH. The house is done, expect for the zinc roofing and the team worked really hard today to pour a cement foundation for some more housing. We are feeling accomplished, and enjoyed some cooler weather today as we worked. We are eagerly awaiting the school bus to pull up so we can spend a few more hours with our friends before we leave for the last time. Today is tough. Leaving here is very hard, and I know it will be an emotional night for us. 

Some prayer requests:

-Kim is feeling a bit better. Her stomach issues haven’t disappeared though, so please continue to pray for her. Her spirits are up, and she’s feeling happy. It would just be great if her stomach was back to 100%. 

-Terry’s tooth pain has gone from a 9 down to a 1. He woke up this morning in very minimal pain (just more of an annoyance) and he decided not to go to the dentist today. He is still feeling good, and was able to work hard all day. We’re hoping the pain subsides until he can get back to Canada and get it looked at. 

-I just received word that Miss Leonie is out of surgery, and things went well. Please pray for her continued healing, and that she can make a speedy recovery and has no further health issues. 

-pray for our hearts. They will undoubtably break a little bit today. Pray that we can leave here knowing that we have been a blessing and made a difference in these kids lives. Pray that the goodbyes go ok. 

-The team has done an incredible job, but I know that many of us are feeling tired. It has been a long week! Pray for us as we leave tomorrow to head into our weekend at debrief. That we can get the rest we need, and be ready to process the things we have learned from our incredible experience in Belize. 

 

I cannot even thank you enough for ALL of your kind words and encouragement. I feel like we have created a community here, and you are a part of us. I know you are feeling the joy, sadness, tears with us. Thank you for that. It is so good to know that we are not alone. Last night we watched your video messages and handed out your letters to the team. It was an incredible reminder of the love and support we have at home, especially after spending a week with kids who have not been blessed with a family in the same way that we have. We love you all, and we are still standing today because of your prayers and support. 

The bus just pulled up, and I have some kids to hug! 

 

With much love and gratitude, 

Kristin and the kids

Jungle Internet

Rats.... I just spent an hour filling all of you in on the last couple of days, and once again the jungle internet has failed me. I'm so sorry! I have lots to tell you. I will have to wait until morning. Things are good! Just a couple of quick prayer requests.... 

-Kim's tummy has been upset for the last couple of days. She is able to join us for all our activities, but isn't feeling her best. Please pray this passes and everything settles down. 

-While we were snorkelling today Terry dove down in the water about 10 feet and his tooth cracked. He's in a lot of pain, and I need to take him to the dentist tomorrow. Please pray that the pain will subside, and we can work out the appointment early tomorrow morning. 

-please pray for Miss Leonie (aka Mom at KCH). She is going in for surgery tomorrow. Pray for wisdom for the doctors, and a speedy recovery (she has 100 kids that need her!) 

So sorry for the lack of an update. Stay tuned! 

Much love,

Kristin

Birthdays, New Friends and Tarantulas

Good evening everyone! The internet is being really patchy tonight, and I’ve lost my blog post a couple of times. I’ve got to head to bed, but I wanted to check in and let you know that we had a really fantastic day today! We did so many awesome things. Had lots of fun. Saw the country. Did some shopping. Met some awesome kids. Became instant friends. Ate supper in an orange orchard. I will post tomorrow with some more details. Just wanted you to know that all is well from the jungle! 

And for Whitney’s friends and family, I wanted to let you know that she had an amazing 17th birthday. She got presents when she woke up, had breakfast at the market, shopped, made some amazingly cute friends at kids club, had 100 cute little kiddos sing happy birthday to her, got a coconut picked right off a tree as a present,ate supper in an orange orchard, came back to YWAM and had a surprise birthday cake, and went on a tarantula hunt. Happy Birthday Whitney! 

Whitney with some new friends on her birthday! 

Whitney with some new friends on her birthday! 

tarantula hunt

tarantula hunt

More tomorrow, but signing off for now…. 

Kristin

Well, that was fun!

It’s the end of day one, and it feels like we’ve been in Belize for way more than 24 hours. We all agreed tonight that it feels like we left Saskatoon about a week ago. So much has happened in a just a couple of days. 

Last night we enjoyed an awesome sleep in the jungle. (well… some of us enjoyed it, while others were a little freaked out by all the bug noises). During our team debrief tonight, so many of us talked about how amazing it was to wake up in the jungle this morning. There is nothing like the jungle first thing in the morning. It really is quite charming. Bright sunshine. Incredible trees. Amazing sounds. It smells awesome. When we arrived at the base last night it was already dark (the sun sets at about 6pm every night here). So this morning was a great surprise as we got up and took it all in. 

We headed to the Children’s Home after breakfast to start our work project. This year our main focus is to build a volunteer house. It’s going to be a little one bedroom wooden house, designed for long term volunteers at KCH. It’s much needed right now, because there are a few families who are volunteering at the home and living dorm style with their whole family in one little room. So this morning we arrived to see that the house has already been started. They had the floor done, and were about to finish up one wall. We got to jump right in and secure the first wall, and continue building the other three. We also have some side projects, including digging holes for posts for a cement foundation for a second house. Digging may sound like no big deal, but in Belize it’s no joke. They don’t have dirt here, they have clay. And even moving one shovel full takes a lot of effort. It was great to watch the team tackle the jobs with so much joy. Tyson had a huge smile on his face as he dug a hole all morning. Whitney discovered that she loves to smash up cement with a sledge hammer. We worked until about 4, and got a good chunk of the house exterior finished. 

And then… with great anticipation… we waited for the kids to come home from school. Almost all of them arrive home at the same time. It was unbelievably fun to introduce my Canadian friends to my Belizian friends. Like… funner than I could ever even put into words. There is just some magic that happens when we get to meet these kids. It is unlike any other experience that we’ve had. It is so fun, so much laughter, so much sweating, so much hugging, so much tag, so many piggy backs. It is chaotic and exhausting. It is perfect. It is like instantly I look up and see everyone on the team with a kid on their shoulders, running around and giggling (yes, our teenage boys were giggling… especially Brett). It is just the love of God transformed into tiny humans. To know and be loved by these kids is an incredible privilege. Even after only one day. We could come home tomorrow with lessons learned about life and love and what really matters. 

We spent two solid hours playing and playing and playing until we nearly fell over, and then had an awesome meal of friend chicken, beans, and home made tortillas. We left home for the day, stopped at the store for some Pineapple Fanta and Takis, and headed home for the night. 

Tomorrow we will do the same. Build a house. Play tag. Giggle. Sweat more than we ever have before. 

Some prayer requests for the day…

-everyone is feeling great. No health problems so far. Thanks for the prayers, they are working. Keep it up! 

-pray that we can truly serve with all of our strength tomorrow. We want so badly to be a blessing to the Kids Home. Pray that we can find new and better ways to continue to serve them and help them out in any way we can. 

-as I was reflecting at our debrief tonight, I realized that i have not heard one single complaint out of the team. Literally not one. Praise God for such incredible young people who are loving each other and our friends in Belize so well. 

With full hearts, 

Miss Kristin and the team

WE'RE IN BELIZE!!!

Hello friends and family! I'm happy to report from the jungle. We made it! Our day was great. Our flights were perfect. We had some good plane naps, and some great laughs together. We ended up in some long lines in customs, so we were a little late getting to the base. But everything at the airport was great, and now we are happy and healthy and in Belize! 

We just had a great supper of rice, stewed chicken, beans and salad (thank you Miss Lili!). The team is now unpacking, taking some much needed showers, and heading to bed. 

I always love watching the reactions of the team as we land in Belize, and I feel like I get to experience the country for the first time through their eyes. There was much squealing and clapping as we landed, and we have happy and grateful hearts. 

We are headed to bed, and tomorrow morning we are heading to the Children's Home to start our work project. We are pumped! 

Thanks for your prayers and support. Stay tuned for thoughts on our first full day in this awesome place. Feel free to leave some comments, and I can share them with the team. 

Thanks everyone! 

Over and out from the jungle... 
Kristin and the team   XOXO

Today Is The Day!

Good morning from somewhere over the southern States! Kristin here… I found some Wifi on the plane and thought it would be a great time to fill you in! We are on our fourth flight, and heading to Houston. We should land in Belize by about 2:00pm, and I will update again by supper time to let you know we made it safe and sound. 

Yesterday was a LONG and eventful day! We were at the airport by 5:00am, and our heads didn’t hit the pillow until about midnight last night. Our flights all went well and we landed in California right around lunch time. Brett wasn’t feeling well and was sick to his stomach during our lay over in Vancouver, and they were very hesitant to let him on the plane. They don’t recommend flying with a stomach bug, and were considering asking Brett and I to stay back and take a later flight into LA. But we asked the team to pray, at the last minute they gave us clearance, and we were all able to head to Cali together. We made a quick stop at Cornerstone church to drop off our stuff and change into shorts, and headed to Huntington Beach for the afternoon. We had a delicious lunch at Ruby’s Diner, right at the end of the Pier. I took much joy in watching Whitney and Sarah experience the ocean for the first time. We had a little time to explore Main Street at Huntington, and then we headed back to Cornerstone to join them for youth. We have a long standing friendship with Cornerstone Church, and their youth pastor Gary Garcia. We continue to be blessed by the way they serve and encourage our teams every year as we head to Belize. They welcome us with open arms. They always become instant friends.  They called us up to the front and had a prayer of commissioning over us last night. Thank you Cornerstone for loving us so well. And for letting us sleep on your church floor. You guys rock! 

We had what felt like a little nap at the church last night, and got up at 3:30 to head back to the airport. Everything went seamlessly at the airport check in this morning, and we are happy to be on the 4th flight out of 5….. almost there! 

Check back at supper time for a report from the jungle. We will head to bed early tonight, and we are excited to get to the Children’s Home tomorrow morning to meet the kids and start to build the house! Our dream is becoming a reality. We have been waiting for February 11th, 2015 for what feels like a long time. And here we are! AMAZING!!! The team is doing great. They are tired, but have great attitudes and are loving and serving each other really well. 

Here are some current prayer requests: 

-Brett is feeling just fine now. His stomach bug has passed. Pray that no one else has to deal with stomach issues. 

-Pray for continued health in every way. And a great and restful sleep in the jungle tonight! 

-I have a prayer request that has been tugging at my heart today. Please pray against anxiety. It is a struggle that so many people I know are dealing lately, both at home and on our team. It manifests itself in different ways, but can feel very real, discouraging, and overwhelming. Join me in praying against anxiety, and instead asking for God’s peace, love, and protection. Heading into the jungle on a trip like this is a big deal. We will move forward in the confidence of knowing that we are just where God wants us. 

We are ready for this adventure, whatever it will hold for us! Thanks so much for all of the support we feel from you back home. 

With much love and excited anticipation… 

Kristin and the team