Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ethiopia Part IV

Hello!

Toward the end of our trip, John asked me how my experience in Chicago compared to what I was witnessing in Ethiopia. It was an interesting question that really provoked some thought, and he actually asked me if he could share that in his and Gwen's regular newsletter, the Boma Bulletin. I started thinking about what to write.

It's really interesting because at first glance, West-side Chicago and remote Southwest Ethiopia appear to be COMPLETELY  different. However, it didn't take long to draw numerous comparisons between the two cultures. Here's a short list of what I came up with...

Violence (Gangs, Tribes)
Corrupt Government (broken promises, bad policies, mean politicians)
Malnutrition (in the US it can be at both extremes of obesity vs starvation, in Ethiopia it's mostly the latter)
Crime
Murder
Alcohol abuse (yes, even in remote Ethiopia)
Barriers to education
Seemingly hopeless communities and individuals


There were some days in Chicago where I really struggled. Seeing things like this, and getting to know people who experience these situations every day, is hard on the heart. Fortunately for me, I lived in a place where I could constantly connect with loved ones and supporters. I could text Megan as I left work and have her meet me at DQ for comfort food. I could come home from work and call anyone. I could take the train up to Evanston and escape from reality for a little while at Chelsea's place.

However, things like this are simply not possible (at least not conveniently) for the Haspels. They had each other, of course, and some local friends, but couldn't make a phone call without driving 20 minutes to get signal, or even farther for internet access. I really admired, was in awe even, at how they could do such heartbreaking work in such a remote area for TWENTY YEARS.


Now, if you are a Presbyterian you have probably heard about this, but for the rest of my readers.... About three weeks after we returned from Ethiopia, we received word that John and Gwen had been ambushed while travelling. A couple of men shot at them in hopes of robbing them. John was hit in the chest and across the eyebrow. Gwen was hit in the jaw. There were a couple of Suri in the back, who bailed out of the vehicle and retreated back to Tulegit. (Not much information has been provided about the Suri that were with them- I heard that one broke a leg but that's it.)

John was able to drive 15 minutes to a village where an ambulance transported them to Mizan, then to Addis Ababa, and later to Johannesburg. I'm not going to provide a lot of details because it's not my story to share and I may inadvertently give false information. However, I do want to share a couple of cool tidbits.

  • When John and Gwen were leaving Addis for Johannesburg, over ONE THOUSAND people came to send them off with prayers and well wishes.
  • The first thing Gwen said when she could speak was "Praise the Lord".
  • It's miraculous to me that either one of them survived. If a bullet had hit just an inch or two away from where it did, it could have easily hit a very sensitive spot that could have killed John or Gwen.
To read more about John & Gwen's Ministry, click here. Click on the red "Call to Prayer" link for updates on their current condition.

To read my tidbit in the Boma Bulletin, click here.

Some of you may be thinking in the back of your mind about "voluntourism" which I mentioned in a previous post. Basically a lot of Americans are beginning to question the value of overseas work since it may take away local labor, create unsustainable efforts, keep the "white savior" complex alive, et cetera. I'm not going to go into the effort of defending this trip on my blog for a few reasons-- 1) that's not the purpose of this blog, 2) if I have a call placed on my heart and went with God I don't think I have to defend that to anyone (if I was murdering people in God's name that would be a different story but that definitely didn't happen) 3) I tend to believe that people can find fault with virtually anything if they really want to. Haters gonna hate.

So if you have questions, concerns about this, let me know and let's have a conversation about it.

Thanks, everyone for reading this and being curious about my experiences in Chicago and Ethiopia!
Your prayers and words of encouragement mean a lot.

For those who are curious, I'm still hanging out in McPherson for a while working retail and will resume my big girl job search shortly! I have no idea where that will lead but I'm excited to see what happens!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ethiopia- Part III

One big part of my experience in Ethiopia, working alongside Gwen (who is a RN), exposed me to the very sad health issues many people face. We saw numerous patients with  Tuberculosis, malaria, and more. In Moga, Gwen even had to treat a little baby for TB. We didn't have a lot of AIDS patients, but Gwen knows of some. One day in Tulegit we went to see a 30-year-old man who is dying of tuberculosis. It was so sad. He pretty much lies in his hut all day, but has to creep out sometimes to use the bathroom. He claims to have had diarrhea for years. He was very swollen from the chest down and is unable to walk. They want to take him to Mizan for more treatments, but are afraid that he will die along the way.

I don't have a lot of expertise in the medical area, but was able to assist Gwen by taking notes. I also tried to be an empathetic presence for the patients, but I'm not really sure how effective that was since I don't speak their language. (however, we all smile in the same language! Corny but true)

Probably my favorite experience of the whole trip was the river baptism. Dr. Haile (pronounced highly) is a vet by profession, but in the last couple of years has spent most of his time as an evangelist. His family lives in Addis Ababa, but he lives in Tulegit and travels to nearby villages and witnesses to native people.

Our last Saturday in the bush, we traveled to nearby Maja and witnessed the baptism of 62 individuals whom Dr. Haile has worked with. It was SO COOL. We left Tulegit, in the Nissan Patrol (which seats 4 comfortably, 9 uncomfortably on bucket seats) which had probably at least 12 people in it. There was also a trailer attached which had about 25 people on it. The baptism is a big deal, everyone wants to come and join the party!

Once we arrived all of the natives were singing, dancing, drumming on water jugs, and waving huge feather-like plants. It really was a party! We all walked down to the river where the festive singing and dancing continued while John and his assistant baptized the 62 newborn Christians by dunking them each in the river.


video


The next day we went to church in Tulegit. My favorite part of the service was listening to the children's choir. Some of them can really sing! I also got to hold Kite's baby which was fun. He didn't even pee on me!



Aaron gave the message and Matthios translated for him.


Another highlight from the trip was our last day in  Tulegit- cattle day! Since my dad operates a feedlot (for those of you who don't know) we happen to have A LOT of cattle vaccines. Usually at the feedlot vaccinating cattle is a fairly straightforward process since you can line them up in a confined area and load them into the squeeze chute one at a time, and it only takes a few seconds before you're ready for the next one. Not the case in Tulegit. It would take three or four guys to hold onto a critter while Dad, Aaron or Dr. Haile would quickly but carefully approach to give the injection.

It was so chaotic. haha. I thought it was funny and entertaining for about 30 minutes and then started to get a little stressed that someone was going to get hurt so I had to leave. You're probably wondering why we even bothered. Well, it's difficult to explain except to say that cattle are a BIG deal to the Suri. It's a sign of wealth and power and the boys there take such pride in their herds. Oftentimes cattle constitute a bride price as well. And of course, cattle can provide people with things like food and hides. But Suri people just really like the animal itself, from my understanding.



And this is when I decided to leave. Although I do laugh a little at this picture.
The next day we had to leave to get back to Addis Ababa and then go home Friday night/Saturday. The journey back to the capitol was interesting.... we reached a place in the road where two Isuzu trucks were stuck so we couldn't pass. We took a side road (through a coffee plantation) but couldn't get through there either because some guys came out waving AK-47s saying we were trespassing and they were going to shoot out our tires if we didn't stop. Man, they were PISSED. So we got "detained" for about 90 minutes before they let us go (after a little bribe money). The situation sounds like it was really terrifying, and I think normally I would have been freaking out a little bit, but I was pretty calm. Mostly because it was totally out of my control. I couldn't communicate with the coffee men, but John and Dr. Haile talked with them (more like yelled) so all I could do was sit in the car and pray.

The next day, still on the way back to Addis, some friendly baboons approached our vehicle on the road. John threw some bread out to them, but one clever baboon noticed that John still had some bread in his hand, so he jumped in the window and was probably 2/3 in the car until John was able to shove him out. It was hilarious. Unfortunately, it all happened too quickly to get a picture.


People were selling roasted corn along the road! It was kind of dry and charred, but it was fun to try!
Well, that concludes the highlights from our trip! I could go on and on, but that would take forever and I don't want to post everything on the internet.

One more post to come about Ethiopia and how it related to my Chicago experience! Thanks for reading!


Friday, October 31, 2014

Ethiopia Part II

I was typing up some of my journals tonight and came across something I forgot to share about our church experience in Moga- a couple of chiefs were there and they spoke. It was interesting because they said their government does not do much if anything to help them, yet these people came all the way from America for a few weeks and "they care more for us and do more for us than our own government". This was pretty encouraging for me to hear but sad that they feel abandoned by their government.

Here's what I wrote in my journal returning back to Tulegit after our long weekend in Moga:



"This morning was pretty typical- I peeled and diced veggies. Barkaka did dishes and I tried to teach him some English. Then I had the idea of actually putting some time/effort into teaching English. Asked Gwen and she said it’s a need so I started making some basic materials/learning sheets (Colors, numbers, alphabet, body parts, etc.) I’m really excited about this project, feel like I can make more of an impact and offer some real skills!"

Barkaka is a 12-year-old Suri boy who does the dishes at Gwen's house every morning. I started speaking some English with him and then it turned into more of a tutoring relationship. The next day after I made these materials- 3 more boys showed up wanting English lessons.

Bar Kaka is one cool kid- I miss him!
  
Practice identifying and writing the names of colors!
Bar Tu (14), Bar Kaka (12) and David (9)
These are some of the materials I made that can be copied for the students at school.
I spent a lot of time drawing animals for vocabulary sheets!
Bar Tu, Bar Didi (22), Bar Kaka, and Bar Sera (11).
 Teaching English was really fun. It was rather challenging at times since I did not speak their language but we made it work with lots of gesturing and help from Gwen :)
The other challenging part was the different abilities of the students. David (the 9-year-old) was quite good at English, while one teenager I had (not pictured) couldn't even say the alphabet. I had to be creative in group lessons so each boy got something out of it. I would often ask simpler questions to the beginners (What color is the grass?) and more complicated ones to the advanced students (Name an animal that runs fast and spell the name of the animal).

I like to think that worked well. At the very least, I know that the boys had a lot of fun and they were able to take some study materials home with them!



I have to hand it to them, though. English is TOUGH. and incredibly different from their native language. I asked Bar Modo to teach me a couple of Suri words (red and blue) and I SUCKED. It took me like four times just to pronounce it correctly and then I would forget it 2 minutes later. 


Another fun thing I did in Suri-land was make injera! David's mom has a little bakery of sorts in the village and she let me help her (well, I wasn't really helpful but she let me experiment) cook the injera!





Kite (keetay) made me tilla! it's made from corn, water and flour. kind of like polenta.

Roasting coffee!

Yummy bananas!
One night, the guys went back to Moga to keep working on the house but I stayed back with Gwen in Tulegit. We played Rummikub and then a girl name Nadine came to chat. Nadine is from Luxemburg and works as a European Union representative in Addis Ababa (capitol of Ethiopia). She was with a group of government officials learning about resettlement issues so that they can be effective in government conversations about that. She wanted to get Gwen's perspective on issues related to resettlement. Honestly, most of the conversation was a little over my head so I'm afraid I can't accurately convey much to you. However, it made me very aware of how freaking complicated everything is. By building roads to these remote places, great opportunities arise to improve healthcare, education, farm practices, etc. Yet there are many negatives at the same time. Alcohol, disease, guns, etc. Gwen has had 2 close female friends die from AIDS because their husbands left during the dry season and contracted the virus from other women.Nadine made a comment about "sometimes you wonder if building the roads was a good thing after all". 

Ok, so my description probably wasn't great but hopefully you understand what I'm getting at: there's always a tradeoff, there's more than meets the eye. Sometimes ideas sound really great as ideas and then it gets a little messy when you actually implement them. I think that's part of what I learned on this trip. We as outsiders may think that we have the answers to all of the problems, but often those "answers" have to be tweaked and modified and adopted by the people we're trying to reach.  Example: You can give a woman a tractor to work her land, but if she doesn't know how to maintain it or repair it, or if she doesn't WANT to know those things, it will probably just create more stress for her. That's why we have to be careful in our "service efforts" that we are actually TEACHING people things that they WANT to learn and that will WORK for them.

Thanks for reading part 2 of my Ethiopian Adventure! More to come soon!



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ethiopia!!

I'm back! After a very long hiatus....sorry it's taken me so long to write again.

So, how was my trip?! It's a valid question, but not an easy one to answer. I've been getting this same question in regards to my Chicago experience, which is even more difficult to answer.

I feel like everyone is expecting me to enthusiastically say "It was great! One of the best experiences of my life! Everyone should do it!" but I can't really say that about either experience just yet. I want to be truthful and say that both journeys were very difficult and heartbreaking, but not everyone really wants to hear that. However, I don't want to dissuade people from doing things like this either, which makes me hesitant to give a "Debbie Downer" response.

Sooo, my typical response so far has been  "Gooood, hard but good." or "really awesome and really horrible". Most people understand and respect the answer, thank goodness. Honestly, it's still hard to talk about Chicago and Ethiopia (especially Chicago) since it seems that no one else reeeeally gets it. Words can only go so far when I'm trying to convey my experiences to someone.

Anyway, at the end of September I had the awesome privilege of going to a Transition Retreat with my other fellow YAVs at Ghost Ranch (a beautiful camp in Northern New Mexico, where O’Keeffe was inspired and painted!). The weekend was really helpful in many ways, but it was mostly awesome just to reconnect with nature and the other YAVs who shared similar joys and challenges.
I'm on the very far left...I look a little funny because I had to sneeze! haha




Alright, now I will attempt to summarize the Ethiopia trip. I went with my dad and brother Aaron to work with some PC(USA) missionaries, John & Gwen Haspels. We flew into Addis Ababa, where John picked us up. We stayed in Addis a few days, hung out with their daughter Heather and her family, ran errands, prepared for our journey to Tulegit. We drove to Tulegit (a 14 hour drive) to where the Haspels have lived and worked among the Suri people for about 20 years. John and Gwen have brought the gospel to these people and now there is a thriving church there with an average attendance of 100 people every week. Pretty cool.

The first couple days, Dad and Aaron worked on a tractor, which I was absolutely no help with, so I tagged along with Gwen. Gwen is a nurse, so we made several house calls to sick patients. We also prepared all of the meals, and I made bread almost every day to supplement.

One quick story that was pretty cool: I got to go to a funeral with Gwen our first day in Tulegit. She was very apprehensive about going since their funerals are pretty intense. Basically it’s a 4-5 period of grieving with the family. People will go to the family’s hut and just sit outside. The first 1-2 days are pretty intense- weeping and wailing (why Gwen was apprehensive). Fortunately we went on day 3 ish, in which everyone sat outside in silence. Occasionally, someone would come by with a tobacco leaf- he would put it in your hand and you would pass it back to him; It’s a symbolic way of saying “I share your grief”.  I think Day 4 & 5 are like Day 3. After that, the grieving is over, and everyone tries to go back to life as usual.

The funeral was for a 28-year-old man. There were several different stories going around, but we think that his wife’s brothers killed him because he didn’t pay enough cows to marry her. Harsh is a bit of an understatement. Unfortunately this is not incredibly uncommon for young men to be murdered (for one reason or another). {Sidebar: there were 4 teenage boys working with us in Moga, and ALL of their fathers had died. 2 by guns, 1 by a snake bite, and 1 by disease.}

Anyway, I really admired how the Suri people are so open about grief. People there aren’t afraid to cry, while people in the US will usually cover their faces and try to stifle their sniffles. Crying is good for us! I think we could learn something from the Suri about grief!

Oranges, lemons, peppers and red bananas

Making REAL lemonade!



After being in Tulegit a few days, we traveled to an other village called Moga, where we would be working on a house for a Wycliffe bible translator. The journey to Moga was pretty interesting...


Dodging cattle

Fixing a wobbly wheel on the trailer

People really liked staring at us
Oh and this is the road.... grass as tall as the vehicle
Upon arriving in Moga, we set up our cots and then got ready for supper- beef stew in a pressure cooker. We were in Moga 2 full days- the guys and Suri workers worked on the house (I helped a little bit but not much). Gwen and I mostly worked on meal prep and seeing patients. Word spreads quickly when the Haspels are coming so people will be lining up all day to see Gwen. Most patients received shots for something. We saw a lot of patients with Tuberculosis or Malaria.

The Moga lifestyle is also rather different...

There isn't a water source nearby so all of our water was collected in big barrels. This is a sample of our water...Needless to say we boiled it before drinking! There was also a dead lizard in one of the barrels.

Squatty Potty

Shower! You could fill the bag with water in the morning, let it sit in the sun all afternoon, and then it would be warm!!!

Playing Soccer. 


On Sunday, we had a church service in Moga. About 100 people came which was pretty awesome. My brother gave a testimony.



Mixing cement.
Simon (translator wearing yellow) was walking from visiting his parents in Ethiopia, back to his school in Sudan.
I believe it was a 3 day journey.


We had to leave Moga in a bit of a rush since it had rained all night and more was coming. The Suri boys put chains on our vehicle and fortunately we didn't every get stuck very bad. We did go over some crazy bumps, and there were times when I didn't think we'd make it, but we did! Gwen made a joke later about how driving in crazy conditions "improves your prayer life" and I had to give her a big "amen" on that one!

That concludes phase 1 of the Ethiopian Adventure....stay tuned for more!!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Looking back and Moving Ahead

As promised, I'm back again. I have a few closing thoughts to share after leaving Chicago!

Looking Back

A few things I've learned this year:
  • It's really not about me. AT ALL.
  • It's a messy, messy world out there.
  • It's more about BEING rather than DOING. As I was preparing to leave for Chicago several people said "Just be the best Jesus you can be" and "You'll do great things". Both comments are certainly appropriate and somewhat encouraging- but also put a lot of pressure on me. Am I really the hands of feet and Jesus? Because Jesus would not have lost his temper and snapped at kids as I did (more times than I would like to admit). Jesus has an unending capacity to give love, and I do not. Yet, I do believe that I was representing Christ. I was called by Him to do this and call myself a Christian, so I am seen as His Child. It can make you feel pretty inadequate when you can represent something or someone so inaccurately.
    I turned to the Fruits of the Spirit for comfort. I didn't have to DO a lot to be effective. My jobs obviously included tasks like supervising, writing, weeding, etc but I also  like to think that my real duties in Chicago were more about BEING a light rather than DOING a lot. It's a little difficult to put this into words, so hopefully you kind of catch my drift. If not, email me and I'll be happy to talk more about it.
  • I don't have to have the answers.
    A year ago, I was hoping that this journey would provide me with answers. Why is the world this way? What's my place in God's plan? Does God even have a plan? Is buying organic really the answer? And on and on....
    Yeah, I didn't find any of those answers. Not even close. I did find little teeny pieces along the way, but not as much as I hoped for. Rather, this journey is all about finding new questions! No one is ever going to have a PhD in life (except maybe in heaven? Maybe God will give you a big book that explains everything...wouldn't that be nice.) Anyway, I read something in O (Oprah) magazine that I thought fit this idea pretty well:

    "I'm discovering that life isn't something I'm supposed to master, but an adventure I'm meant to experience."

    The author continues, "I'm worrying less about what I should be doing and becoming more aware of what I am doing. I'm starting-one foot at a time- to put my whole self in." (article written by Sue Fliess. O Magazine, Volume 15, Number 8, Breakthroughs! August 2014)

 

Moving Ahead

In case you missed my last post, I leave for Ethiopia on Thursday. Dad, Aaron and I are going for 3 weeks to work with some missionaries, learn about the church there, build a house, and who knows what else!

Yes, I have all my shots. Yes, I am taking malaria pills. No, not the kind that make you hallucinate and have crazy dreams. Yes, I know about ebola but we'll be on the other side of the continent so we should be in the clear. However, even with all of these precautions, it is still possible that one of us could get sick. Please pray!

Now, some of you may be skeptical about this, thinking of it as a form of "voluntourism". For those of you that don't know, this term refers to how some Americans go on these international trips for personal glory and may do more harm than good. Here's an example of an article that talks about this, Instagramming Africa.

Articles such as this one make very valid points and caused me to examine my motives for going. However, I feel that some of these articles paint international efforts with very broad strokes and use generalizations. We go to Ethiopia for multiple reasons:
  • Cultural Experience- You can read all the books and articles you want, but nothing is as informative and enriching and life-changing as experiencing it yourself. 
  • Learning about church and community- We'll see what a thriving church in this village looks like, worship with the people there, and also see things like a police force and health center, and whatever else is there.
  • Evangelism- Spreading the love and Word of Christ.
  • Encouragement- It is our hope that both the locals in this village, and our communities back in the US can be encouraged by our work. 
One project we'll work on over there is building a house. This may be a shocker to some of you, but I'm not a carpenter. However, I do have a teeny bit of experience with construction. My dad and brother have more. Anyway, we will NOT be taking away jobs from local villagers. Instead, we'll work alongside them and assisting them. My job may be as simple as holding a ladder or passing tools. I'm not going to be doing anything that's totally out of my range of ability (I don't want to do a sloppy job and make someone else redo this work later).

Other things we'll do may include working with cattle (which all of us have experience with), helping with medical care (which Aaron is trained in), and helping with the church. We also may simply BE with some of the people there- playing soccer, etc.

Hopefully this description answers most of your questions and accurately conveys the purpose of our trip. I've told you everything I know at this point. That being said, we'll be in a rural area and likely won't have any communication with the US. Also, please pray for us. Health is a concern as I mentioned, but I also ask prayers for safe travels and open hearts as we go out into the unknown.

Thanks a bunch, see you in September!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Closing Retreat

Well I'm done! Closing thoughts will come later but for now I wanted to write about our closing retreat last weekend. Thursday the 31st was our last day of work. I stopped to get my last cup of the best chai ever, chatted with a lady who was 5 months sober on the bus, and got home with about 15minutes to pack. We (billy,megan,krista and I)left that evening and drove 3 hours to a campground on Lake Schafer in Indiana.

The campground was cool, it was actually an RV park with cabins and spots to set up tents. We stayed in a cabin.

Friday morning we departed for a day of fun at the Indiana beach amusement park/water park. It was AWESOME. It was relatively small compared to 6 flags or worlds of fun which was nice since we just had one day, and it wasn't super crowded.
Fun Clarissa fact- Iused to be terrified of roller coasters and any carnival rides really. It was a big moment when I finally ride the scrambler in like 6th grade. I finally went on a couple small coasters in high school and eventually liked them. Anyway I was such a big girl and any on a all the rides with my thrill loving roomies! I may have screamed a lot but I didn't cry or get sick or anything real embarrassing haha. Dude it was so fun. We were all laughing and shrieking together and has priceless facial expressions-a few of which Megan caught on camera!

Also at the water park they had a sweet lazy river and awesome water slides (which are one of my favorite things in the whole wide world)

Needless to say it was an awesome day.

Throughout the retreat we had reflections and discussions based on the book we had been reading, An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor (highly recommend this!).
The three chapters we discussed were about grief, prayer, and blessing. I must say reflecting on my grief this year and reading in the book about it was very helpful for me.

Saturday we had free time in the afternoon so we went mini golfing! That was really fun too-megan and I tied for first! Then we cooked over the fire,had discussion, played some cards and went to bed.

Sunday we packed up,had reflection time, and hit the road. We stopped for lunch and sent each other out with individual blessings which was neat. It was kind of hard to imagine that this was really the end, that we won't be around each other much anymore. The blessings were simple but thoughtful and meaningful.

We returned to Chicago and from then on out it was packing and doing last minute bucket list adventures! I'll tell you more about those later though!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Beginning of the End

Hello out there,
In case you don't have a calendar, it's JULY. My last month in Chicago.
Life been crazy busy lately, so here's a few quick updates.
My friend Ellen came to town! She's one of my favorite people and it was so awesome to be with her for a few days. My Aunt Patty and Uncle Steve were also here that weekend, and they took us to a Cubs game!


Chelsea, Ellen and me @ Wrigley Field

Signature Room--96th floor of the Hancock Building
The next weekend was 4th of July! I went up to Evanston and hung out with her and her friends and watched fireworks at the beach!

My other aunt and uncle Bev & Mark came with cousin Dahkota the next day, we met up and went on a bike tour of some of the lakefront neighborhoods. It was really fun! Highlights included Oprah's house, Lincoln's statue, the first Playboy mansion, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the lakefront trail. We got pizza after that and the next day we went to the conservatory and saw the bean!

Believe it or not, the next weekend another aunt and uncle came to visit! Doris, Darren, Matthew & Jacob stopped by on their way to vacation in Wisconsin/Michigan and took Hannah and I to a Cubs game.


It was so fun and a big blessing to have all these visitors! Fun to show them around where I've been!

Anyway, work updates:

Grace Seeds is good as always! It's getting pretty busy as I wrap up my time there! We've had some new partnerships this season which is exciting. One partner, Growing Solutions Farm, is run by students with autism, and has a huge space! The first 3 weeks of harvest they had between 70-90 pounds each week of greens! Linda and I are so proud to partner with them and they are happy to donate the produce to a pantry just a few blocks away.

My last big project with Grace Seeds is redesigning the website. We've had two trainings with a consultant which have been great to learn from, but it is a little overwhelming! It has been rather humbling (but exciting) to see how little I know about websites! It's a work in progress, but the new site is starting to take shape and I couldn't be happier with the way it's looking.

Lastly, we are preparing for a mid-summer celebration and fundraiser next weekend (the 26th) which should be a fun event once we get all our ducks in a row!

BUILD has been so much better lately. It's no secret that I was a little burned out at Spencer, so summer programming is a refreshing change of pace. Don't get me wrong- it's still exhausting and frustrating at times- but I actually enjoy going to work now which is awesome. Only one family from Spencer is there this summer which is sad. The rest of the kids are from other parts of the west/northwest sides of the city where BUILD works, but I would say that a majority of the ones at summer programming live in the Humboldt Park area where we run.

The bucket list?

Making progress! Probably not going to get to everything on it which is ok because I know I will come back at some point! Recent things I checked off: Nickel Creek Concert at Taste of Chicago, Movie in the Park, Summer Dance, more random coffee shops. This Friday for our last community day we're going to do several more things which will be really fun!

July 31-Aug 2 is our end-of-year retreat in Indiana and after that we are free to go! Eek! I'm going back to KS on the 5th or 6th and then......

Ethiopia! Dad, bro Aaron and I are going to rural Ethiopia for 3 weeks! We know some missionaries there and will support them however needed. So, yes, it is a mission trip. However, I'm also looking at it as a cultural exchange. We're going to learn about the developments that have taken place in recent years (my dad was there in '93 and '05 so he can tell us about how it's changed over the years) and see what the body of Christ looks like there. It will be cool to experience a different kind of worship and everything else that they do there!

After that.....that's a million dollar question.

So far I've applied to one organization called Communities in Schools---it's a big nonprofit that works in schools around the country to keep kids in schools. They do this by connecting kids to community resources like food assistance, mentoring, outside activities, etc. I really like the organization so I applied for a couple open positions in Kansas. I'm also looking to apply for similar positions in Kansas City Public Schools and Denver Public Schools. We shall see! Prayers are definitely needed and appreciated!

That's all I've got for now, keep it real.