Cute Challenges to writing an update: or “From point A to point B”

As I write this, I am hiding in a corner at the YWAM base (our internet access location). Earlier I sat up to a table in the community area as I composed the first draft. Linda, a very cute girl around 9 years old skipped up to me. She is mute and was having trouble with the other kids because of her inability to articulate. No invitation needed she jumped up onto my lap. I showed her some pictures on my computer which completely fascinated her. She stayed by my side, jumping on and off my lap, wiggling like she had a scorpion in her dress and trying to buy games through the Play Store on my phone. In her excitement she pointed to a picture on my computer and started swiping her fingers across its touch screen. Somehow her actions combinedIMG_20160506_193739 with my keyboard typing completely erased my first draft.

At that moment I had a sort of internal struggle where I lept between “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and “This sweet little girl just needs a friend. What’s the big deal?” Poor Linda looked at me, mouth open attempting an “uh-oh” and waiting to see how I would react… Well, I’ve always been a softie when it comes to kids.

After about half an hour of play time showing Linda more pictures and how to play a math game on my phone, I figured I’d better get to rewriting the update. I tracked down Linda’s parents and then found another spot on the base with a decent wifi signal and began to write. Within 10 minutes a young Paraguayan missionary and friend who is in cross-cultural missions classes, approached me. “Heather” he said with his Guarani-thick Spanish accent. “I really need your help. In one hour I am presenting on the differences between North American and South American culture. You are the only North American on the base right now so can I please interview you?” Without waiting for a response he started asking all about my “cold northern culture,” as he called it. No matter what I said I just couldn’t convince him I wasn’t cold-blooded. “You are from the north after all,” he said. “That is why it is so hard for you here with us warm Latins while Sal (my Mexican-descended husband) gets along so well. I hear North Americans don’t like hugs.”

“But it’s not difficult for me here,” I responded. “I love Latin culture and I love hugs.”

“Maybe you just don’t realize that our ways are really hard on you or maybe your husband is just rubbing off on you.” Oh well, my friend is sure to discover one way or another that not all North Americans are “cold cultured.”I believe we are the first US family he has yet met.

Forty-five minutes later he wrapped up his interview and headed to class. I turned on my screen to write and another young Argentine missionary (whose hair I agreed to dread next week) sat down next to me. She just needed a “big sister” talk.

After listening a bit and encouraging her not to hide big decisions from her parents, I excused myself and sook out a seemingly quiet spot of ground outside where I didn’t think I’d be disturbed. I loved all the interaction, but I had work to do. The update was coming along well until a group of kids stampeded around a corner IMG_20160514_115203and pounced on me. It was a mix of missionaries’ kids and our restoration home students.  “Tia Heather!” they yelled. They were so rambunctious it was all I could do to stop them from stomping on my computer. Once I climbed out from underneath them I explained that I had some important work to do but could come back later to play. “OK,” they said disappointingly. I reopened by laptop, sat down and found myself in the middle of a half-dozen kid huddle… “Where is Mila and Talai and Dassah?”… “What does that button say?”… “What are you writing?”… “Will you teach us to lasso cattle”…So much for not liking hugs.

After a short tickle fight, I decided I had better take drastic measures or I would never complete the update. That brings us to now, with me hiding from a bunch of very cute distractions in a dark corner of the YWAM base quietly writing. With that introduction, let me invite you to read:

 The Update

or, “Where we are and where we are headed”

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freedigitalphotos.net

We have been working in Argentina while attending the School of Rescue and Restoration through the University of the Nations from which we recently graduated. The school involved long days of up to 15 hours in the classroom and required us to put in many hours of hands-on work with children in the youth penitentiary, orphanages and homes and with the onsite restoration home or Casa Abierta. We worked directly with the kids and when possible their parents as well. We learned about: childhood sexual abuse, family restoration, human trafficking and extractions, restorative counseling, working with governments and much more. Now with our education paid off and our counseling certificates in hand we are headed for Uganda, Africa.

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courtesy “africa” at freedigitalphotos.net

To reach and become established in Uganda is the second step in a multi-phased plan to ultimately run a restorative home and private school for highly traumatized youth in Uganda Africa. The plan looks something like this:

  • Phase One: Study and prepare, get certified (completed)
  • Phase Two: Arrive and become established in Uganda, Africa-
    • Prepare van for drive from South Africa to Uganda
    • Ship van to South Africa
    • Fly to South Africa
    • Obtain Ugandan working visa
    • Drive to Uganda
    • Work alongside other ministry, learn culture/worldview/politics
  • Phase Three: Buying and Building Phase
  • Phase Four: Running the home and school
  • Phase Five: If the Lord wills, help others start and run their own restoration homes and schools for traumatized youth

 By the first week of August we will leave Corrientes and head for Buenos Aires, the port we will likely be shipping the van from and flying out of. The Buenos Aires metropolitan area is home to around 14.5 million inhabitants and we are grateful to have contacts in several areas of the city who will help us navigate the landscape and bureaucracy. There is a lot of footwork

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Courtesy “photoraidz” at freedigitalphotos.net

and paperwork involved in transporting 5 people, 2 dogs and 1 van across the Atlantic! We expect the process to take about a month or so. Other than that, we are waiting on funding and will be turning a lot of attention towards fundraising. If you are interested in helping us in this phase of the project, please see our “Support Page” or go to

http://paypal.me/salandheather.

 We are excited about the adventure ahead and the opportunity to anchor in some roots in Uganda. We have been in a sort of transitional chapter in our lives for almost seven months now and we are anxious to establish a home that we can “come home to.”

 A Note on Driving:

 Several people have already asked us  why, considering the risks, are we driving half-way across Africa. Usually the question is framed something like, “Are you crazy?!?” Truthfully, sometimes I think perhaps we are, a little. However, ultimately we feel that the benefits of overlanding far outweigh the risks. Here is our nutshell explanation:1212151441

  1. With our experience overlanding Central and South America, we feel confident in our competence to minimize the risk involved in this trip.
  2. This trip allows us to create valuable networking and contacts which will be immensely helpful toward starting a home and school. It also provides for us the opportunity to learn African culture before jumping into ministry with them.
  3. A vehicle is a must-have in Uganda one way or another. Without it there is no way to dependably transport our family. We have a dependable van that is invaluable to us. Our van (donated by Family Life Church) is large enough to fit our family and has proven it is up to rigorous driving.
  4. It is cheaper this way. A used, questionably dependable vehicle in Uganda costs around $17-20K. Our trip, including gas and traveling costs, plane tickets and shipping the van should cost significantly less than that.
  5. It is less complicated. As foreigners, obtaining a vehicle in Uganda is complicated.
  6. After much prayer, we feel this is God’s guiding.

 That said, it would be a lie to claim that we’re disappointed with how things are working out. As explorers and adventurists at heart, our whole family is very excited at the prospect of driving through Africa, seeing new places, meeting new people, learning completely foreign customs and everything else involved with such a journey.  We are exquisitely blessed that God has merged our dreams with His plans for our lives. We get to do what we love as we serve His Kingdom and help the “statistically hopeless” to have and follow their own dreams.

Isn’t our God simply amazing?

Less than a week to go!

And so, the countdown begins. In exactly six days from today we will be driving across the US-Mexican border (deep breath… and exhale…) But do not worry about us. The hours we have put into preparation, planning and research have been countless. We even bought this book:

book-sm

As it turns out, driving across Central and South America is actually “a thing.” It’s called overlanding. Lots of people do it, including retired folks, modern day gypsies, remote workers, fugitives, backpackers, and missionaries!

Currently we are camping on a friend’s property in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday our pups have a vet appointment to complete necessary travel paperwork and on New Year’s day we head to Laredo. We’ll be Camping Austinvisiting one last consulate and spending the night there so we can get an early start crossing the border the next morning, January 2nd. Our first stop is the YWAM base in Monterrey, Mexico. With a little luck and a lot of grace we should reach Corrientes, Argentina in 6-7 weeks. The YWAM base there is helping us to find a small home to rent so we can get settled a bit before the School of Rescue and Restoration begins.

Since leaving Michigan, we have already covered over 3,000 miles. This has given us a chance to prepare for our overlanding trip in a safe sort of mock trial. The Lord has, in this time, prepared our van (yes, new brakes and battery are a must) and ourselves (everyone definitely needs their own sleeping bag) for the trip we are very close to embarking on. More than ever, we feel prepared and confident. Not to mention, Sal has achieved the status of “yes and no mechanic.” Yes: I can fix that. No: I am not certified.

sal and van

We have given the inside of our van a make-over and it definitely feels like home. (Will post pictures soon)

Now that we’ve got business out of the way, allow me to share a few stories from our adventure thusfar:

In North Carolina we served hot chocolate to stressed exam week students at a local college and shared the Good News of the Gospel with them. The girls did an excellent job rounding folks up. Something about a four-year-old in pig-tails promising a warm cup

freedigitalphotos.net
freedigitalphotos.net

of hot chocolate on a cold day proved irresistible to the college kids.

A few days ago Mila decided she wanted to share the Good News with a woman who was stocking Pokemon cards in Walmart. As she has seen Sal and I do, she attempted to break the ice by asking her about her tattoos which were barely visible beneath her Tee shirt. With a big smile the woman lifted her sleeve to reveal Satan and demons and a big triple six across her bicep. Mila’s eyes grew to saucers and she clenched her jaw so as not to let it drop. With a polite “Thanks for showing me” she turned on her heal and hurried back to Sal. Poor Mila was rather distraught feeling that she had “cowarded out” by not telling the woman how much Jesus loved her. She vowed to follow through next time, no matter what someone might have tattooed on themselves, bless her heart! This opened up a perfect teaching moment on conversational evangelism and light Apologetics. Sal and I reassured her that approaching the woman in the first place took courage and that both God and ourselves were proud of her.

trunkSimilarly I was asking a young man about his dreadlocks about a week ago. By the end of the conversation he was inviting Sal and I over to crochet our dreads and “burn down.” Being the naive woman that I am I just smiled and waved and pondered over his odd phraseology as he drove away, thinking perhaps we could visit and share the Gospel with him. Sal, in the drivers seat of our van busted out laughing. To the inquisitive look I gave him he responded, “Honey, you just got us invited to go get high!”

“What?”

“Yep,” Sal said. “That guy just invited the missionaries over to smoke some weed.” As it turns out, my dreadlocks are proving to open many opportunities to share the Gospel… who’d have guessed?

Christian Clip Art
Christian Clip Art

Across the miles we have camped, slept in the van, witnessed to Muslims, made many potty stops, donated half the clothes we started with to free up space, evangelized at universities,  gotten stuck in a muddy field, said lots of goodbyes and had lots of fun.

As we embark on this new adventure that God has called our family into, we petition your prayers. We ask God daily for divine encounters, open doors, safety, provision and favor. If you would join with us in this, we would greatly appreciate it.

freedigitalphotos.net
freedigitalphotos.net

Also, please prayerfully consider partnering with us through financial support. You may make a one-time donation or provide monthly support. Click on the “Support” tab for more info. We do not yet have sufficient funds to complete this trip and attend the YWAM secondary School of Rescue and Restoration, but we are confident that we go on God’s timing and have faith that He will provide.

This New Year will mark a radically new chapter in our lives. Our prayer is that it will also mark something significant in your own life as well. May you go deeper with God this year than you have ever been before. May you experience greater manifestations of His love for you and learn to love Him back with ever-growing strength and zeal. May forgiveness and intimacy define your relationships, especially with family. And may you laugh often, filled with the joy of our Lord and that peace which transcends all understanding.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

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