Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The End....?

Many of you know that I arrived back home Sunday night so I really have no excuse (jet lag???) for why I didn't post anything sooner. So my apologies!

The second of week of camp we helped put on was not at Striki but another school in a nearby town called Blidene. This year was the second year the camp was done there so the traditions and organization was very different from Striki. Which I guess is good. It keeps you from getting too comfortable and thinking you're an expert now. We had a total of 20 kids at Blidene (compared to the 80 at Striki), which meant instead of having seven classes we only had three. That left two people on our team without classes to teach. They spent most of the day in prayer over the camp/kids and just helped the rest of us out during the day. This extra prayer was much needed because, despite having a quarter of the kids we had at Striki, discipline was much looser at Blidene. That's not to say the kids weren't good kids but they were much more eager to test boundaries with the teachers and with each other.

But, all discipline problems aside, it was a good week. The group of kids Katharine and I ended up co-teaching were all very sweet, and did their best to try to learn some new English and participate in class. We did have a pair of troublemakers, though, who liked to test our patience and resist every time we asked them to speak in English or do anything in English. However, I think God used these kids to teach me better patience and how to keep my calm during frustrating situations. Often times at home I get easily frustrated with my family so while teaching in Latvia I realized that I need to work on keeping my cool and just rolling with the punches. This leads me to the second lesson I learned, which is I need to become more flexible. I had prepared lesson plans for the camp ahead of time and printed out hundreds of sheets of paper. When I first got to Latvia I thought I was going to be able to do everything I had planned down to the very last detail. And with the first English session I taught this was clearly not the case. So for both of weeks of camp I tried to work on adjusting to the situation and being okay when I had to make concessions to my original plan.

One of the biggest things I noticed while in Latvia is the people's generosity. For many years these people had next to nothing yet they still give as much as they can (and often more). Our culture stresses giving only as much as we can handle, yet their culture teaches them to give abundantly despite whatever financial struggles they're going through. It's made me realize I need to give more freely and without remorse.

Overall going to Latvia and being immersed in their culture for two and a half weeks has really opened my eyes to a world outside of the United States. We may have many different cultures and ethnicities here in the US, but going to a new country is more enriching than I ever could have imaged.

But it wasn't only the people in Latvia who made my experience memorable, but also everyone else on the EEMN team. We did have our little conflicts but for the most part we all worked together very well. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to meet and live with these people for half a month. It really made the whole experience ten times better.

I hope to go back to Latvia in the near future but who knows what will be in store for me in the next few months. What I do know is that the lessons I learned their will stick with me for the rest of my life. Hopefully, with God's help, I'll be able to implement them in my daily life and grow from this experience.

Thank you all for your support!

Much love,


ps. For more in depth stories, things I learned or pictures contact me in person (whether by text, email, calling, Facebook or just meeting face to face) and I'll be happy to share :)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Week in Review

Wow, what a crazy week! Even though I was exhausted at the end of each day, it was definitely worth it. The relationships I was able to build with, not just the kids, but also some of the teachers/translators made all of the stress worthwhile.

However, the week wasn't without its lows. At the end of the day on Monday I didn't think I was going to be able to communicate with the kids or that they wouldn't like me because I was boring. I was so worried that I hadn't prepared adequately enough and that I had heard God's calling wrong. Maybe I wasn't supposed to come here to teach these kids. Maybe I had completely misheard God. But I knew that these were just doubts that I put in my own head and I just had to trust that God would provide for me.

Which He did. The next day went much smoother. Granted, David and Goliath is a much easier lesson to teach than the anointment of David. :P The kids had a lot of fun writing their "giants" on the life size poster of Goliath then tearing him down at the end of the day. They were a lot more talkative and eager to participate in class. Later in the week, I even got some of them to read in English!

What surprised me the most was their openness. You wouldn't think that you would be able to get very deep with 7 year olds, but whenever we talked about an important topic they were very frank and didn't hold back. Some kids shared with my about the death of their grandpa, or that they were sad because their family was moving away from Latvia and they would be away from their friends.

And seeing them really get into the music David Michael Carillo played during the music rotation was also very cool to see. By the end of the week they had all the lyrics and movements to the songs memorized.

God truly showed Himself in the lives of these kids. Not only did He guide the team as we taught these kids, but through them He also taught us more about ourselves.

This week was truly a success and I'm so excited for tomorrow when we do it all over again in Blidene.

On Saturday, we were able to go to Riga and visit the Occupation Museum and the old KGB building. It was very insightful to learn about Latvia's difficult history. Learning the background of the country gave me a greater appreciation for it and a better understanding of where these people are coming from. It was also very heartbreaking to learn about all the things these people had to suffer through. And the fact that they gained their independence barely a generation ago boggles my mind. The woman at the gift shop there even shared some memories from her childhood during the Soviet occupation and of family and friends who were deported.

The KBG building was also very insightful, but somewhat disturbing. It was weird to think that people had been tortured and executed there. As interesting as the tour was, I was eager to get out of there. A lot of bad vibes were coming from the place and I felt sort of heavy and gross the whole time we were there.

After that, we were able to walk around Old Riga. Old Riga is very beautiful and rich with history. There are many old, beautiful churches and buildings. Nothing like downtown Indy! The city was also so lively and full of people.

Today (Sunday) we went to another traditional Latvian service in another beautiful church. The service was beautiful even if I understood approximately two words in the whole service. Experiencing the church services here has been a really eye opening experience and is so different from the churches we have at home. Even the most traditional church in America would pale in comparison to a service here. I felt like I was at the abbey in the Sound of Music! Which isn't necessarily bad, but definitely different.

So that's all for now, folks. Again thank you all so much for the support. And please continue to pray for the kids, the team, the teachers and the translators! Although money was necessary to get us over to Latvia, prayer might be even more important. Without it, God may not have moved in the ways He has since we've been here.

Much love,