So we got our first EMI project trip assignment and it's Kenya! I really wish I could be all spiritual and act like a holy, worthy missionary and tell you that I was instantly thinking of the help we can offer to these two excellent ministries, but seriously, my knee-jerk reaction was, "DUDE! WARTHOGS!"
Not that we are only thinking exotic and romantic thoughts. On the contrary, when the initial thrill of a possible day on safari wore off (roughly 27 seconds later) all I could think was how utterly inadequate I feel for the job in front of me. I (Jenni) speak only for myself here. Kevin will be fine. But I am putting one foot in front of the other as we count down the days (58) until departure, knowing that where I am at my weakest I am also at my most dependent upon God. So in other words, right where He wants me.
And yeah, I am kind of scared.
Kevin and I will be on separate teams for this trip, although they happen concurrently and that means we get to be on the same flights in and out. We will both be serving orphanages. His project is for Touched By Love Ministries, which has no existing facilities or ministry happening on the project site where the team will be. The children they are serving now live in other homes , and it's not really large enough to host anyone beyond the necessary design professionals. That is why I will be with Brad Crawford's team to serve Into Abba's Arms, a ministry looking to expand their existing facilities. I am hoping to learn more soon to be able to share with you how you can pray for them and us.
But I would be silly if I did not make some practical preparations. My shooting got fairly rusty (okay, understatement) in the last year as we spent the majority of our time either raising our support, homeschooling, shoving stuff in boxes, shoving homeschooling stuff in boxes, or cramming in time with friends. I need to get my groove back.
To that end I am instituting "Photo Phridays" on the blog. I am not under the delusion that hundreds of photography critics will tune in to offer their help, because if I wanted that I would just start a Flickr account. No, I really just need to say this here because if I know so many as three of you might be expecting some pictures it will keep me accountable to actually do the practicing I so desperately need.
I've connected with a few other photographers here at EMI and we are hoping to make more of a habit of going out shooting (with cameras -- I don't own a gun) (just a Canon). Here in our backyard we get daily visits from mule deer, lots of birds, a couple of very fat lizards, and the little cottontail bunnies that live under our back deck (Cookie Dough and Snickerdoodle). Then there are all the cool local hikes we have within spitting distance. Those can pull double-duty, helping me not only practice photography and video, but also giving me something to practice writing about. I miss writing, as evidenced by how I ended that last sentence with a preposition.
And of course there is the distinct possibility that the work God has prepared for us in advance has absolutely nothing to do with the skills we think we are offering up to Him. We learned that one on the Honduras trip and it's a point I think He will continue to drive home in the coming years.
The warthogs are just frosting on that cake.
We arrived safely in "the Springs" on March 12 without incident. Our travels encompassed the white sands of the Gulf beaches and the hospitality of our friends in Dallas, the excitement of the wide-open road and the wailing of cats that do not share our affinity for lengthy road trips. My one stellar and astute observation after five days and 1,840 miles is that if you think Florida is flat, you need to drive up the center of Louisiana. Pancakes got nothin' on that.
The morning after we arrived we were met at our rental home by a large crew of EMI staff to help us unload our truck. This "Moving In Party" thing is a long, proud tradition at the ministry and since the unload is the hardest part, we were glad for the help. It took them about an hour, which someone said might be a new EMI record. Yeah, I know we got rid of a lot of stuff before we did the 2013 road trip, but still, we are talking furniture for a family of 5 and a LOT of homeschool materials.
We all hit Chipotle for lunch, then it was back home to start the unpacking. The Bockers, who were our very first friends in this city a couple of years ago, texted to invite us to dinner. Since I did not even know where a pot was to be found and our fridge held only a lone packet of Zaxby's sauce, we were pretty stoked to head over. Plus, it's Bockers. Our day was rounded out nicely by the news that we reached 100% of our funding need.
The past week has been a frenzy of unpacking, dinner with EMI staff, warm welcomes from neighbors,
some hiking and exploring, and all the typical errands. The weather has been what most say is fairly typical for Colorado and might best be described as "indecisive." Case in point: we unpacked the truck in shorts and that same night I assassinated an African violet and my orchid by leaving them on the front porch. We have had the windows open and two days later, driven to Denver through sleet and snow. The neighbors across the street from us were watering their grass one day while the house right next to them still had a massive pile of snow on the lawn. And no one here so much as bats an eyelash.
I (Jenni) spent the week a bit unplugged. I avoided electronics in general, taking calls and texts only from those who gave birth to either myself or my husband. I knew I needed at least a few days removed from the constant buzz of social media and screens. My brain needed to defrag and reboot.
So now after most every box is unpacked and nearly all the art is hung on the walls, the cars have been registered, the fridge and pantry stocked and the cats have settled in. Monday morning we hit the books (the kids are thrilled!) and Kevin clocks in for his first day at EMI. We want to thank each and every one of you who helped us get here. Your encouragement has meant the world and your prayers have been felt. We feel so very blessed and we are ready to get to work.
I have to be honest, I did not expect to have anything worthy of sharing with you all just yet. I mean, we only drove as far as Tallahassee yesterday and I really only expected an uneventful evening. But I was wrong.
We got out of Tampa around 3:00 and made our first stop in Gainesville as I needed a Gator hoodie. I say "need" because Colorado is a cold place and also because Gator Nation, baby. The bookstore was closed for spring break, but as we headed off we passed the UF bat house.
The school built the bat house way back when I was there (don't ask how long ago) to relocate the bats that were defiling the stadium. Problem was, they could not get the bats to stay. However, many years later the bats all moved into the bat houses of their own accord. The population must have grown because now there are two houses.
By this time it was close to sunset and I noticed a considerable crowd gathering. It dawned on me that the bats must all come out en masse and create a lovely show, so we decided to stay and watch. Said show did NOT disappoint. During our year on the road we missed seeing this sort of event at Carlsbad Caverns because we were there when all those bats are off vacationing in Cancun, and we did not get to the place in Texas where they all come out from under the bridge because we don't actually know where that is. So this felt like a do-over. We even got a bit of a National Geographic bonus moment when a few opportunistic hawks swooped in and snagged a bat meal.
Speaking of snagging things, I was not about to give up on the hoodie search so easily and after a few misses, found one at Alumni Hall. Perfect size, perfect style, and on sale for $20. Score! The young sales clerk was very friendly and we were chatting it up when she mentioned there is a discount if you have your student ID. I chuckled and told her I surrendered that some years ago, but she said they honor it no matter how long ago you graduated. She said, "A man was here just yesterday and when I told him that he went out and searched his car and came right back with his ID. And, I mean, he HAD to have been at least 45!" This was when I ceased to like her.
We dragged in to Tallahassee around 9:30, so tired we could barely do much beyond dropping stuff on the floor and crawling into bed (because when you're 43 you are positively ancient, Ms. College Sales Lady). I might have mentioned we are traveling with two cats, both of whom are fairly vocal about their feelings regarding car travel. I'm not certain what they're saying. It could be, "This is awesome! Drive faster!!!" Or else it is, "I'm going to kill you in your sleep tonight." They did not make good on that threat, but they did make enough noise to keep us up much of the night. This morning when we left them to go down for breakfast we were about 40 yards down the hall when we realized we could hear Harley yowling at the top of his lungs. Traveling with cats is awesome.
We are in Boloxi, Mississippi tonight and headed for Dallas tomorrow. We are so very thankful for all the help so many of you have provided over the past week to make this process smoother, and all the prayers have been felt! Thank you!
and Go Gators!
We are missionaries with Engineering Ministries International, based in Colorado Springs, and traveling around the globe to serve.
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