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2011-2012 Tijuana Knox young adult Mission Trip

Here is a blog recap of our 2011-2012 Amor Trip.  This is not the whole story but some of the highlights.

Wednesday – Dec. 28 

The 11 of us arrive at Knox at 3:45 AM, ready to head out to Midway so that we can have our tents set up before sunset at the Amor camp outside Tijuana.  The traveling goes very smoothly.  We pick up Kenny at the airport in San Diego and then Melissa at the Amor Office closer to the border.  Our group is finally complete – the 13 of us.

We cross the border quite simply and take the toll road along the States-Mexico wall to the Amor camp.  We quickly set up camp and establish our home for the next four nights.  We are all quite tired from our long day of travel and do not have any problem or objection to our heads hitting the pillows.

Thursday – Dec. 29

Our Amor Team Leader is Fernando – he is the first Amor Team Leader who was born and raised in Tijuana.  He is laid back and easy to talk with.  We arrive at the Barron Rios family home and meet Enrique at the gate.  We are not sure who he is.  There are no grand introductions.  This is typical for an Amor Trip because sometimes the families want to be involved and sometimes they don’t.  We quickly start scouting out the area, lay and square the foundation’s frame, and start mixing, pouring, and smoothing concrete.  This takes up all of Monday and by the end of the day we have a foundation.

Toward the end of the workday – Mark decides to go over and join a soccer game that’s already started.  Mark’s a good soccer player.  Bryce and Kyle join in too.  Kyle is not a good soccer player.  Playing soccer with the kiddos becomes a regular occurrence when there is free time.  Another highlight of the day is meeting four extremely cute puppies that belong to the family.

Friday – Dec. 30

We arrive in the morning and our concrete has had a night to dry and we’ve had a night of sleep. Some slept well – others didn’t.  Sleeping in the Mexican desert should be classified as a form of art.  Day two is building the walls and roof and putting them up.  We set up our stations and start working.  There’s a lot of sawing, measuring, and hammering.  The paved soccer/basketball court is a really nice place to build walls.  Eventually, we have all the walls done and put them in place.  It takes a while to center everything and make sure the house is square.  Once it’s square, the roofing frame goes up and we’ve got ourselves something that resembles a house.  Pretty amazing for two days of work – the only problem is that you can see through it…

Friday we get to know Enrique’s wife – Avrea – and I start exchanging smiles with her.  We also meet more of the family.  Enrique and Avrea have three sons and three daughters.  One of their daughters lives next door in another Amor house.  Therefore, there are children around constantly, which is a great joy!  For us none Spanish speakers, it is fun to interact and attempt our limited Spanish with them.

Saturday – Dec. 31

Most everyone had a better nights sleep on the second try.  We return to the Barron Rios’ property with a structure that resembles a house.  Our roofing team heads up to the roof for a sun filled day spent with tar.  Our ground team then wraps the house repeatedly.  We wrap the house in lines of bailing wire, then in thick black paper (the house is no longer see through), and – finally – we wrap the house in chicken wire.  The house then receives its first coat of stucco, which is when the TEAM aspect of the trip is most visible.  There are people making stucco – watering stucco – carrying stucco – and applying stucco.  We resemble ants and a team the most at this point because this involves everyone running around a lot and we have found our groove after days spent working together.

However, the highlight of our day was definitely when the Barron Rios family made us a meal.  It was incredible chicken salad with pop to drink.  Momma Avrea served us all and then we went inside their new home to eat.  For the first time, we had a Q&A session with the family.  It was great for me to feel like I could finally communicate.  We wanted to know everything about them – little and big – how’d they meet? – how many kids and greadkids do they have? – are they going to keep the puppies?  Then the questioning turned on us and they wanted to know what each one of us did for our professions. We went around and there were some pretty comical moments.  We thanked them for their generosity and they thanked us for coming from so far to help them.

Sunday – Jan 1

We woke up to a New Year.  We pack up the tents and head over to the Barron Rios house for the last coat of stucco and the last time.  We go straight to work when we arrive – we are in the zone after three days.  Some of the family had come over to their house for New Years and they still had a rented karaoke machine so all of the sudden some unexpected Backstreet Boys starts blaring as we stucco.  This eventually leads to karaoking and incredible dancing by the entire group.  It is a really joyful party and once again it feels like the language barrier does not exist as we rejoice together.  However, after one last song it is time to go.  So, we gather and pray for the family.  Bruce gives them the keys to their new home and we load up the vans.  As we pull away, the entire family is outside the gate waving goodbye to us – it is a beautiful God moment to complete a beautiful God-filled trip.

Norway in a Nutshell

We arrived in Oslo, Norway with our list of things to do and an idea of what order we wanted to do them in.  We spent our first night settling in and finding our bearings by walking around Oslo.

Norwegian Parliament Building (flag is up when Parliament is in session):

Thursday we got up and headed over to the City Hall, which is where the Nobel Peace Prize is handed out every year.

Nobel was Swedish and the rest of the Nobel Prizes are handed out in Sweden, but he wanted this one prize to be handed out in Norway (there are some assumptions to why he did this, but no one is sure).  We had an excellent guided tour by our guide, Ivan, who was paid by the city to give tours throughout the day at no charge.  They only had two murals on the wall of previous people who had received the Nobel Peace Prize: Obama and Wangari Maathai from Kenya.  I had the opportunity to meet Wangari Maathai when I was in Kenya at an Obama Election Party… kind of cool. Continue Reading…

Week 44 Revisited: Lodwar Videos Totaling Four

Lodwar School Choir (if you’re only going to watch one video please make it this one)

Refiner’s Fire (Tebi and me leading morning devotion music)

Hakuna Mungu Kama Wewe “There is no God like You” (Tebi and me leading morning devotion music)

Atooity Top (me leading an in-betweenie at a school in Lodwar)

Week 45: Rafting the Nile in Uganda

Our YAV year is winding down and so it was time for our closing retreat.  Ideas and thoughts had bounced around for quite some time, but it was eventually decided that we would go to Jinja, Uganda to raft the source of the Nile.  So, the seven of us hopped in a bus for twelve hours and found ourselves doing just that the next morning.

The Seven Kenya YAVs before:
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I had crossed over the Nile during my visit to Kampala, Uganda with Cosmas in December and was awe struck by it.  Then in Cairo in January I crossed the Nile more times than I could count, but I had never been “in” the Nile so I was excited for the opportunity.  You only live once.

Our group of seven has grown accustom to being told what to do and then doing it without question which made for good Nile rafters.  I was very happy that everyone was willing and able to participate.  We found our helmets and life jackets and headed down the Nile with our Ugandan guide, Jeff.  Our favorite quote that Jeff kept repeating was, “And just enjoy the Nile.”  It was what he said previous to that statement that made it funny.  Jeff would say, “When you find that the raft has flipped and you’re under it, reach around, find the sides of the raft, pull yourself out, lean back, grab onto your life jacket, and just enjoy the Nile.”  Awesome.

We flipped collectively, as a raft, twice, but individually we found ways to make our way out of the raft as well.  We went down eight big rapids that were all class four and class five.  Class five is the highest level that rafts can go on, but the classes go up to seven which only kayaks can go down.

As I said, we’ve become very good at taking orders and following them which resulted in some really entertaining bo-jazz.  Story number one, Jeff would say wave at the camera and we would all turn and wave to the camera not realizing that the camera’s presence meant that we were getting ready to go down something that was worthy of being photographed.  Therefore, after Jeff would tell us to wave, a second later he would say, “Get down!” which means that you turn back to back bending down in the raft while holding onto the rope for dear life… “and then just enjoy the Nile.”

This is what happened:
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Story number two, Jeff would tell us to paddle hard and so we would… not asking what we were paddling to.  Turns out one time we were paddling toward a waterfall, so if we paddled hard we would get to go down a waterfall and if we didn’t rapids.  We paddled hard because we were told to do so and were the only group out of the three to go down the waterfall… backwards.  Awesome.

Going down the waterfall backwards:
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Flip Number Two
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I spliced together a very short video from our rafting experience:

This was my favorite touristy thing that I’ve done in Africa so far.  I’m a very outdoors adventure kind of person.  I think being with my six good friends for the last time in Africa made it even better.  As Dave Matthews says, “Turns out not where, but who you’re with that really matters,” however, I would argue that where you are can definitely add to the experience as it did in this case.

To view all of the photos click here.

Seven Rapids and One Waterfall later we decided to just enjoy the Nile:
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Week 35: Climbing Mount Kenya

As previously mentioned, I met two guys at a coffee shop in early March from Oklahoma and Texas, Nick and Mark.  Well, we have gotten together a few times since then and two weeks ago Mark invited me to go climb Mount Kenya with him and his girlfriend.  First thought, “welp, you only live once.”  My boss okayed the trip and as the day approached for us to leave I slowly learned more about what we were doing.  I’m an outdoor kind of guy and love to go camping, but have never been on a serious climb/hike.  Mark’s major in college was Outdoor Ministry, so he is THE outdoor man and gets to say things like, “I know how to do an Eskimo Roll out of kayak, do you?”  So, I started asking Mark what to bring and he told me that I needed clothes for ten degrees and I said, “Celcius, right?”  Nope.  Fahrenheit.  Poop.  Furthermore, I thought we were going with just a guide at first.  No, we had three porters, a cook, and a guide.  We ate like royalty.  Besides the climbing it was the most posh outdoor trip I’ve been on.

The Contestants: Robert, Mark, and Karen (who is strangely the first cousin of a person I went to college and Dwight Mission with)

Monday – We woke up at 5 AM and were on the road to Mount Kenya getting to Chogoria at around 9 AM.  Then we took an old-school Land Rover from Chogoria to the Park Gate which was 20 miles.  We only got stuck once and it was thoroughly entertaining with the nine of us in there.  We reached the park gate and had lunch and then began our relatively easy 7 km (4.35 miles) first day.  Our camp site was in a cave by two water falls and was absolutely beautiful.

Mark and I at the Edge of the Waterfall:

It was -5 degrees Celcius (23 F) that night, but we were all warm.

Crazy Cool Flower:

Tuesday – We had a leasurely day on Tuesday only going 10 km (6.21 miles).

Us Hiking on Day Two:

Beautiful Waterfall and View on Day Two:

I got a migraine at some point during our way up and right after lunch my stomach started feeling queezy.  We were now at 14,075 ft. and so I believe me and the altitude weren’t agreeing on life.

Minto’s Hut (where we stayed Tuesday night)

My migraine got worse so I went to bed at 7 PM which was good because…

Wednesday – we got up at 1:30 AM so we could be ready to climb to Point Lenana.  Point Lenana is the third highest peak of the Mount Kenya peaks at 16,355 ft.  The first two have to be scaled with equipment, so those were not options.  So, by 2:45 AM we were climbing the last 7 km (4.35 miles) to point Lenana.  It was dark (obviously) and about half way I saw the first snow I’ve seen in Kenya which was exciting.  Then the snow and ice became a nuisance.  My altitude sickness got a bit worse as we increased altitude (who’d a figured), but we arrived at Point Lenana just as the sun was rising.  It was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit and windy, but we had plenty of layers on so it was not bad.  We stuck around at the top for about fifteen minutes and then headed back down.

At the top of Point Lenana of Mount Kenya at sunrise:

Mountain Peak Circle Rainbow (note the ice on the bottom left side):

The down was more annoying than the up because of the ice and rock combination so I took it really slow.  I’m definitely a 25 year old tortoise rather than a hare.  Slow and steady wins the race… or doesn’t get hurt.  We got back to where we had spent the night Tuesday and met our porters and had breakfast.  I was feeling pretty sick, but after lying down for an hour I felt much better.  Then we walked the entire distance we had walked the previous two days back.  Therefore, we walked a total of 18ish miles Wednesday… I slept well.  I was really proud of my body and especially my legs because one has a titanium rod in it and the other has shin splints, not so great.  So, I was proud of my 18ish miles in one day and my legs, good job guys!  We got back to Chogoria later than expected so we had to stay the night there and catch the 5 AM matatu back to Nairobi.

Me in the back of the matatu for the ride home. I hope you’re entertained because I sure wasn’t during this experience, but now looking at the picture I am definitely entertained…

It’s cool to say that I climbed Point Lenana of Mount Kenya and was at 16,355 ft.  So, I said it, I feel cool now.

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