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Our Debriefing Retreat and Last Night.

Posted Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Today we got the privilege of sleeping in and going on a retreat in the afternoon to relax and reflect on the work done throughout the week.  Originally we were going to go up to the highest point in Cochabamba but that would have required a 7 am departure time and a 5 hour drive so we opted out of that one. :)  

Instead, Kattya took us to this hotel with a pool and lots of sun! After an afternoon of food and relaxation, we got together with another missions team that is leaving with us and shared some of our experiences.  To wrap everything up, we all went out for a nice buffet supper.  The food was delicious and the time was filled with sharing and laughter. 

As our time here draws to an end, we are sad that our time here went by so quickly.  We were so blessed by all the opportunities we were given and pray that God will continue to sow the seeds He helped us plant throughout the week.  Tomorrow we will go to church, the outdoor market for some last minute souvenirs, and then begin our marathon trip home.  We get to kick it off with a 45 minute flight followed by an 8 hour layover……..Please pray for safe travels and high spirits as we begin this journey back to our loved ones to share our experiences!

Blessings,

Heather

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Friday (the last day of kids & basketball!)

Posted Friday, August 13th, 2010

The students at the school listen to Heather & Amber share about Christ.

Hey everyone! Things are beginning to wrap up for our trip in Cochabamba, Bolivia. As we have done each day, this morning we woke up and gathered for breakfast and received our morning challenge.  Brittani prepared the challenge for today and what she shared with us was a challenge to pray. Prayer is the one tool that has been very crucial in all of the different aspects of our trip so far. Since meeting at the airport last Friday morning, prayer has been our lifeline. Brittani encouraged us to continue embracing the power of prayer in all of the situations that we face. She reminded us of when we were able to lay hands on the mission team at Christ for the City here in Cochabamba and how powerful those moments were. This week, God has answered countless prayers that we have lifted up to Him as a team. These prayers have been prayers for healing, prayers for job opportunities, and prayers for comfort and joy. After Brittani’s morning challenge we joined together in collective prayer by praising and thanking God for what he had done, instead of asking him for what we thought we still might need.

As we were getting on the bus this morning to go to the mission that had been planned for us, we were not exactly sure what we were getting ourselves into. Kattya explained to us that we were on our way to a public school where we would be on the court in front of about 400 students ranging in ages from first grade to twelfth grade. We were so overwhelmed when we heard that number that we didn’t know what our plan would be. But what we did know was that this chance to go into a public school and share with 400 students that we play basketball for Christ was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Before getting off the bus, we put Brittani’s challenge into action and prayed for strength and creativity to reach out to the kids and keep them entertained.

When we got to the school, most of the younger children were lined up in single file lines on the outdoor basketball court. The way that the teachers worked with the students was something that none of us have really experienced before. They were very strict but at the same time it was evident that they were thankful that we were there. Coach Barber led all of us in his famous Panther Academy clapping game and he gave the 3 winners an opportunity to win 10 bolivianos. All of us players did different shooting drills while the kids watched and cheered us on.  After we wrapped up our drills, Heather and Amber talked to the whole school about why we are here in Bolivia and who we play basketball for (Jesus Christ =]) It was so awesome to realize that we were sharing God’s love in a public school. Before we left, we were all swarmed by students with pens and notebooks asking for our autographs. We felt like celebrities…I think we enjoyed it. J Twenty minutes later as we tried to finish signing autographs and say “Chao” to all the kids, the headmaster of the school gathered us all together to take a photo of our teams and coaches to hang up as a poster in their school. After the picture, it was clear that the students did not want us to leave. We all wished that we had the chance to stay longer and interact more one-on-one with each student, but we couldn’t distract from their schooling. Being at that school today touched all of us because we knew that those kids have never had an opportunity that like. We were very privileged and blessed to be used by God in this rare occasion!

This afternoon we had another great Bolivian comida. It was silpancho, a dish with rice, eggs, and beef, with a side of fries. It was muy delicioso! We had no afternoon plans today, so some of us spent the time taking siestas in the sun, while a few of us went to the market with Kattya.  Going to the market was an adventure…we (Ieisha, Carli, & Nathalia) were able to see firsthand what it is like to take a taxi ride in Cochabamba. Having Kattya with us this week has been a HUGE blessing! For dinner, Kattya brought home two GIANT pizzas that literally took up one whole table in the dining room. It was sooooo good.

Like last night, our game was right before the boys’ game at the coliseum. The stands were packed. We lost, but collectively we all worked super hard. Right after the game, a girl from the Bolivian team came to me (Carli) and asked if we could trade jerseys. There are no words to describe how awesome it was to be able to trade my jersey for the jersey of the girl I played against in a whole other country. After all of the exchanging that happened, I think it is safe to say that nearly all of us will come home without our jerseys and with the jersey, jacket, or sweatshirt of one of our opponents. The boys took 2nd place in the tournament and us girls had such a fun time sitting with new friends and taking pictures while cheering for the guys like crazy.

Today was our last day to teach and play basketball. It’s sad to think that we will be leaving in a short time. We still have two more days of exciting things to accomplish and we are looking forward to being used by God wherever we go up until the time we leave. Thanks again for all of your love, support, and prayers back home. We all miss you! Adios!

Love,

Ieisha #41 & Carli #43

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Jueves (Thursday) in Bolivia!

Posted Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Hola Amigos!

It has been a blessing to wake up every morning to nice cool weather with a warming sunshine. Like usual we had breakfast and following that we had our morning challenge. Today Stacey read an excerpt from the book, The Purpose Driven Life. It was refreshing to be reminded once more of our purpose here in Bolivia. The author of the book states that God doesn’t need us to spread His word but yet he chooses us, it is a blessing to serve Him. When we were done with our morning challenge we got on our bus and arrived at Hogar para ninas (An Orphanage for girls). This is when we realized how much of a blessing it really is to serve our Almighty God.

The girls we encountered today truly touched our hearts, they were in many ways different from other kids we met. Everything about their manner was touching, they reached out to us in every single way. When we first walked through their doors they shook our hands and asked us our names, admired our purple hair (Amber and Carli) and asked about our colorfully painted nails. They were bold to approach us and immediately hold our hands and pull us around. The girls were eager to be with us, to learn, and also eager to teach. After our small introduction we loaded the bus with all the girls and drove to the basketball court.

Once at the court we managed to find basketballs for all 26 girls and were able to give them quality individual attention. These girls were 8 to 13 years old. We learned that these girls weren’t only extremely kind and welcoming but they were talented with dribbling and interested in learning more. This was the first group with which we could do some tougher drills with, it was nothing less than uplifting and motivating. After about an hour and a half of playing with these girls we got back on the bus and headed back to the Hogar.

Brittani giving her girls a high five!

Once we arrived, we were surprised to be taken by our hands and guided into their home. The girls walked us through halls and pointed to their pictures on the walls. We were shown their dinning room, their living room, their study room and even their bathroom. But the most touching place within their home was their gesture of leading us to their rooms. All the beds were neatly made and the girls eagerly pointed out their beds. We sat on their beds and talked, they invited us into not only their home but their lives as well.

When it was time to leave, we think the coaches had to tell us about 20 times. It was so hard to say goodbye to these wonderful girls. When we finally made it to the gates of the home to get on the bus, they were clinging on to our arms and hands while asking us not to leave and to please come back. Knowing that we wouldn’t come back made saying goodbye extremely difficult.

This experience so far was the most humbling and inviting. We often hear that it is possible to see Christ in a child’s face, and we can honestly now say that we’ve seen Christ!

We returned to the casa to find a wonderfully prepared lunch. After which we got to experience the cultural siesta.

At around 7:30 we headed to the basketball gym to then have our women’s and men’s team play intense games. Both teams persevered (especially after reading the encouraging book of James) and played with more preparation and fire than our previous game. We played very strongly until the very end, lost the game by only two points. The men’s team also had to push through tough moments having only six players. Not to mention Rod ran off the court to throw up, no worries though, it’s just the altitude, he’s ok! The game ended with a victory for our men’s team which was well deserved, they played very hard and very well considering they had to push through fatigue.

We returned to our casa, looking forward to some warm showers and our beds. We debriefed, said some prayers for the safety of Ryan and Jonas (continue to pray for their travel home), along with some other prayer requests. Our busy but delightful day is finally to an end. Today was most definitely a day of learning and loving. We not only learned to love the girls but to also receive their love as well.

The girls showing Nati their rooms at their Hogar.

Thank you all back home for your support! We miss you and please continue to keep us in your prayers.

Blessings from Bolivia!!

~ Ann and Nati

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Wednesday, August 11…half way through!!

Posted Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

In the past four days, we have been to so many beautiful places including El Christo and Spanish church services.  We also have gotten the great opportunity to share the word of God to kids through basketball clinics and even TV interviews that will be broadcasted on the news to all of Bolivia.  However today, we had a slight change in our schedule to reach a different population of children.

We started the day off great with a delicious breakfast made by Kattya while listening to a devotion led by Ryan Mulholland.  He talked about the way that we allow earthly things get in the way of our actions that we are here to perform for God.  We have all been given a heart of compassion and in turn we need to use that to show the children of Bolivia our love for them. Undoubtedly, this was a perfect message to hear before the work we had in store for us for the day.

Our first task was a quick practice where we had a refresher course of our plays to prepare for our game in the evening. Afterwards, the boys played a scrimmage game. As we walked out of the gym, we noticed the biggest park slide we had ever seen!! So of course there was no stopping us (including coaches) for a few minutes of reverting back to our childhood.

It's really too bad that this picture does not show exactly how huge this slide was. Why don't we have one of these in Greenville?!

When we arrived back to nuestra casa (our house for the time being), we were greeted with a lunch that was muy delicioso!  This nourished our bodies for another afternoon of hosting basketball camps. Instead of going to the church that we had been at the past couple days, we spent our time at a local afterschool program for underprivileged children as well as children of single parents. This group of kids was mostly boys and a little older than we have been helping.  Just like in past days, these children were refreshing and blessed us possibly even more than we were able to bless them. While at the camp, I (Katelyn) was able to share with the children why we are here and what our focus is.  I had the opportunity to talk about how we were given this ability to come to Bolivia through Christ for the City and in like manner, we play basketball with a focus solely on God. Needless to say, in the course of the afternoon, we were able to pull off another successful basketball clinic!

The kids had a blast with our defensive portion of the clinic.

Then it was time for dinner! The boy’s team decided that it was their turn to cook for the girls…this was a nice change of pace.   They made us a more familiar meal of SPAGHETTI!!!!!!!! Not only did they cook for us, but they surprised us with a a candle lit table complete with fake flowers and five star service.  It was an incredibly sweet way to show their support of our team before our first game.

We faced a completely different style of game tonight. And as frustrating as it was, we are appreciative of the fact that we are experiencing a game that we would never be able to face in the states. Although we had to deal with some frustration, we are excited that it will help us in this upcoming season.

The greatest part of this trip is that we are realizing how great it is that God is allowing us to learn through our experiences instead of just spoon-feeding us lessons that are important to learn.  Thanks for all of your support and prayers, and know that we are praying for you as well.

With lots of love,

Katelyn #55 and Laura #20

P.S.  Ryan and Jonas left this evening to head home for Stephen Groves’ wedding. Please pray for their safety!!!

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Tuesday- Day Four in Cochabamba!

Posted Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Today our teams started our day earlier than usual- we were up doing devos by 8:00am. Following devos we headed to the gym for our first real basketball experience of the trip. The girls scrimaged first- four, ten minutes quarters, then the boys followed. And to say that we were winded would be a SERIOUS understatement. We highly underestimated the effects of the altitude!!! In spite of a lack of oxygen, both teams had an outstanding time, and the Bolivian teams we scrimaged against had awesome attitudes, it was a real pleasure playing them. The girls won 35-23 and the guys won 79-57 (or something like that).

Once we got back to where we are staying we had lunch and got the opportunity to hear an incredible man speak. One of the missionaries staying here with us, spoke to us about his experiences ministering to one of the smaller native tribes out in the jungles of Bolivia. After coming to Bolivia with his wife, Mike and his wife studied hard to learn a foreign language neither of them had any experience with. After years of studying Spanish, Mike and his wife went out to meet the tribe they would be working with, only to find that their native language sounded absolutely NOTHING like the Spanish they had spent so much time and energy learning. So little by little, day by day, they began learning yet ANOTHER language in order to communicate with the 3,000 or so people of this small tribe. Learning it took them YEARS but what ended up taking them even longer was translating the entire new testament into the native tribal language. Translating the new testament is hard work in an of itself- but Mike was able to translate it, in written word, for a culture based on oral tradition. And although this speech of Mike’s was during our scheduled “nap time”, all of us were totally drawn in, hanging on his every word. How awesome?! Such an incredible man of God displaying such perseverance.

After lunch we headed out to the same location where we had hosted the basketball clinic the day before. Today we had an even greater turn out than Monday! We had about 5-7 campers per coach, and through broken Spanish and hand gestures we managed to pull off yet another successful camp!

Heather helping a little girl shoot.

Later in the evening the guys had yet another Scrimmage against a different team from Cochabamba- they won (82-61, also a guesstimate). After the game the guys were interviewed for a tv broadcast for a local news channel in Cochabamba. God provided an awesome way for us to get our mission and goal out to even more people today through that and our guys (and Nati who translated) took advantage of that opportunity and made sure to state our mission trip purpose!!

We finished our day with our typical debriefing time,- what did we see, what did we learn, and how can we apply this to make us a better team? To sum it up it was a long, exhausting, fantastic day!! We are most definitely looking forward to more games and more opportunities to spread God’s word through the clinics we are running! Keep us in your prayers!

~Stacey

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