Project Journal

Thursday, 20 July 2006, 8:36AM - DFW Airport

This morning started a bit tenuously, but all is well. Yesterday evening brought an incredible storm system through the Saint Louis area. Power was out throughout the city, and airport service was interrupted. Though seemingly within a block in any direction power was out, Landsdowne fortunately appeared to be spared the worst, so I had power throughout the night. Upon leaving for the airport around 4:20 this morning, the power was still out in south Saint Louis, including nearly every stoplight between the house and Highway 40.

Traffic was light on 40 and 170, but the exit to the airport from 170 was closed due to construction, forcing a delay to circle back around to the exit. Power was out completely at the Cypress long-term parking lot I normally use, which forced another delay as I circled back to the $1 more expensive Express long-term lot.

Upon entering the main terminal, I found an incredibly long line at the international check-in counter. The airport service interruption last night forced several people to spend the night in Saint Louis, and all these people were in line to transfer their tickets for a flight today. At about 5:20 the attendant began calling people forward for the early departing flights. My flight to DFW at 6:06 was the second flight out for the morning. I checked in, cleared security, and made it to my gate with about ten minutes to spare. The flight to DFW was short and uneventful. After getting a Cobb salad to go at Champs, and refilling my coffee at Starbucks, I arrived at my gate (D37) for my flight to Mexico City with about an hour to spare.

I talked to Stephanie last night before I fell asleep and then briefly this morning as I was boarding the plane, to say goodbye. I have grown accustomed to talking to her each night before I fall asleep, and reading her email each morning when I wake up. The added separation of the next ten days will be difficult, but I know that we will be in each other's prayers. I am also comforted knowing that in trips such as this one, I am glimpsing the eventual fulfillment of the ultimate call on my life. One day I will share this calling with my future wife, and will thus fulfill the two greatest desires of my heart.

I am excited once again to work alongside Elias, with whom we worked last year in Panixtlahuaca. I am eager to learn the nature of our project in San Juan Quiahije and also what will be the special work Elias has planned for me.

Thursday, 20 July 2006, 11:00PM - San Agustinillo

Travel plans became interesting upon arriving at Mexico City. The final connection to Huatulco was delayed, and then cancelled and transferred to a new flight. Though our original departure time was 2:25PM with arrival in Huatulco at 3:40PM, we didn't land in Huatulco until after 6:00PM. While delayed in Mexico City, I passed the time talking and eating lunch with Michael, a Jewish Rabbi visiting the Puerto Angel area to inquire about purchasing a small (four-room) hotel to open a retreat center.

Upon arrival in Huatulco (customs and immigration were painless, though I was randomly selected for a baggage search) I discovered that Elias was no longer at the airport. Michael offered to give me a ride, which I accepted. I helped navigate as we made our way to the hotel property. Michael - who also insisted on paying for my lunch, though I had originally invited him with the same offer - paid for our dinner, and put me up in the hotel for the night as well. The property is on the beach, and the sounds of the crashing surf (I believe we are near high tide) will have me asleep in no time.

Saturday, 22 July 2006, 8:50AM - San Pedro Amuzgos

I slept well in the hotel Thursday night. Apparently, strong winds were blowing the high-tension power lines into the branches of the palm tree outside the hotel, causing popping and sparks. The owner Marci, Michael, and the other tenants were all awakened by the noise around 3:00Am, but I slept through it. I woke up around 7:00AM and spent an hour or so in the Word before getting dressed. Marci was just opening the internet cafe on the first floor of the hotel when I came downstairs. We tried calling Roca Blanca a few more times but still could not connect. While I waited for Michael to wake up, I went out to the beach to walk a bit and to take some pictures. After Michael woke up, we made our way to Roca Blanca. We stopped along the way for coffee, and found Cacalote after about two hours.

I received a very warm welcome upon arrival at Roca Blanca, since everyone was worried that I had not arrived on time. Michael and I were served breakfast in the guest house, and then I saw him on his way back to San Agustinillo. I found out that, due to a last-minute change in plans, Elias took the team not to San Juan Quiahije but rather to San Pedro Amuzgos. Elias would later tell me that the change in plans was due to a labor dispute between the national teachers' union and the government. (The union held a strike at the Guelaguetza stadium in Oaxaca City, which would result in the cancellation of the festival this year, due to the chaos and destruction of the demonstration.) Due to the labor dispute, Elias no longer had access or permission to use the auditorium and other facilities in San Juan Quiahije.

As a result, plans were changed to hold the program instead in Amuzgos. This team is the first to visit Amuzgos from Roca Blanca. Amuzgos is the name of both the village and also the ethnic group. The village is about fourteen thousand people, located in the westernmost mountains of Oaxaca, near the border with Guerrero state. The team is working with a church approximately three years old.

I arrived at Roca Blanca right before the truck was leaving for Amuzgos with a load of trees and some luggage. Isidro drove the three-hour voyage into the mountains, and we arrived in the middle of an afternoon rainstorm, just after the team had finished eating lunch. We also ate a quick lunch and then Elias began describing the program to me while the team rested.

The team is a group called Every People, Tribe, and Nation, and consists of almost thirty people from Dallas, TX; Raleigh, NC; Miami, FL; and Seattle, WA. The group from Dallas are from First Family Church, and Missionary JoAnna is the team leader. The team's program there is "Mision Rescate" ("Rescue Mission"), organized like a military mission consisting of three operations.

We set up in the auditorium in the town center, and Elias asked me to run the sound system and musical accompaniment. The contents of the program were similar to "Vida Extrema" ("Extreme Life") last year, with games, music, dances, dramas, testimonies, and preaching. Following the conclusion of the program, we packed and stored the equipment and returned to the house for dinner. After a time of brief prayer, I went to sleep around 10:30PM.

I was awakened sometime after 6:30AM Saturday morning to get dressed and clear out of the room, which is used both as the men's sleeping quarters and also as the dining hall. We began the morning with worship and prayer, and then debriefed on the day's activities. After breakfast, on group is to run a clinic at the church, one group is going to package food and clothes for the local families, and a third group is going to plant trees throughout the village.

Saturday, 22 July 2006, 2:30PM - Amuzgos

After breakfast, we left to go set up at the city center plaza. We planned to use the sound system for music and projection to attract people, in order to offer to plant trees for them and to explain their purpose. However, we couldn't get the sound system to work, so we separated into four groups and went door to door. The mid-afternoon rains came while we were out planting trees, but nevertheless our group planted about eight trees.

Now that I have been in Amuzgos for about a day, I feel more in the normal routine.

Sunday, 23 July 2006, 8:30PM - Roca Blanca

I forgot to mention previously that several old friends from Roca Blanca have been working with us. Dan and Anjelica, who went with us last year to Panix, are working with this team, and also Renee. Ruth and Dulce, who is now 15 months old, came with Elias to Amuzgos.

To continue where I left off, after eating lunch I took a nap for about two and a half hours while the team prepared the puppets, dramas, and dances for the evening show. I was starting to get a headache, and the sleep helped immensely.

I woke up in time to begin setting up for the evening program. The rains prevented us from using the outdoor plaza, but we were able to use a second auditorium. We had problems with two sound systems, but were able to find a third to use for the evening. The evening's program marked the conclusion of the youth program part of Mision Rescate. Afterwards, we returned to the church for prayers and the evening snack.

Due to a change in plans, our schedule changed, beginning with Sunday morning. Rather than attend church service at Mas De Vencedores church (the church with whom we were working), and then eat breakfast and distribute food to the homes in the village as we had planned, we packed and prepared to return to Roca Blanca.

Pastor Alejandro and the members of Mas De Vencedores prayed over the team before we departed. I said goodbye to Saul and a few others. Anjelica, who had driven one of the vehicles to Amuzgos, asked me if I would drive on the trip back to the base. I had never driven in Mexico nor driven a Suburban before, but saw no reason to experience both for the first time. The caravan consisted of a white van (the same van Destiny Church purchased last year for Roca Blanca), three Suburbans, a truck, and a RAV4 - six vehicles in all, communicating by radio.

We stopped for a couple hours in Pinotepa Nacional and browsed the local market, so that JoAnna could go in the RAV4 to Pinotepa San Diego to inquire there about the local church and a possible mission trip there. After the group re-joined, we continued on back to Roca Blanca. We arrived to a dinner of chicken enchiladas, unloaded the vehicles, and spent an evening resting.

I stopped into the base office, and while I was there I checked my email to read the messages Stephanie had sent me. (The base has satellite internet.) Here messages were amazing, and reminded me once gain - though I could never and will never forget - how much she loves and misses me; likewise, reading them, I was reminded how much I love her as well. Love may be a seemingly strong word for such a nascent relationship, but it is undoubtedly the most appropriate word. She was the first girl I ever truly loved, and now that God has brought us back together, knowing what I now know and having experienced what I have, I can say with all confidence that I love her. It is difficult being apart, but it is equally encouraging to know that she understands and supports my desire and calling to the mission field, and that she is praying for me each day - just as I am for her.

As I get ready to sleep tonight, I am keenly aware of just how blessed I am. I have the love and support of the most perfect woman God could have created for me. I am - for a week and a half - living out the ultimate calling on my life. I am strengthened and protected by a loving God, who is helping me each step of the way through every obstacle and hindrance the enemy tries to place in my path. I prayed for a new experience with this mission trip, and God is granting that request far beyond my wildest imagination. I am thankful that He is working through my infrequently used Spanish, to enable me to communicate, and to translate effectively. I am humbled that He is using me as an example for the many people - young and old - on the team for whom this trip is their first experience with mission work. I am grateful that I am covered in the prayers of my family, my church family, and other friends and loved ones. I appreciate the opportunities to view the splendor of God's creation - as with the drive down from the mountains this afternoon - and experience the awesomeness of His power and majesty - as we did this evening as we swam in the massive and powerful breakers of the Pacific Ocean this evening. I am grateful that the sound of those same breakers will usher me to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, 25 July 2006, 11:40AM - Roca Blanca

I slept from a little before ten until 7:30Am. After coffee, we had prayer and devotions in the conference room. We had breakfast and then loaded the vehicles for Rio Grande, a town about twenty minutes west of Cacalote. We went to an extremely impoverished neighborhood and visited the church there. This church is one of three started in Rio by graduates of the Bible School at Roca Blanca. From there, we went door to door to distribute food for the families and candy for the children. By the time we finished in the middle of the afternoon, I was feeling a bit sick to my stomach. Though I had drunk at least a half gallon of water, I assumed I was suffering a bit of heat exhaustion. On the way out of Rio Grande, we stopped at the first of the three Roca Blanca-founded churches.

We returned to the base to eat lunch, but I was not at all hungry. During the meal, I stepped away to the yard and vomited all the water I had drank during the day, and then everything I had eaten for breakfast. After that, I went back to my room to rest. I spent the next several hours in fitful sleep, at one point vomiting again, and then spending about three hours with constant diarrhea. I was completely dehydrated and was unable to sweat, though I suspected that I had a fever. I tried to rehydrate, but the water would pass through without absorbing.

Anjelica and Laura suspected that I might have the same bacterial infection that had afflicted several team members in Amuzgos. When I vomited at lunch, Laura gave me a ten-day regimen of Cipro. I took the first tablet at 8:00PM, which seemed to help alleviate the diarrhea. I was unable to eat, so I took the tablet with some Gatorade.

I called for Laura around 10:00PM, and when she arrived she checked my vitals and confirmed that I was running a fever of about 3.5 degrees (my normal temperature of 97.4, and I was 100.8.). Zenaida prepared an ice pack for my head, while Laura gave me Lopiramide and Acetaminophen, and also prepared an oral saline solution. She left me to sleep for a little over an hour, and returned around midnight to check my temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. I was still about 100.4, and the fever was elevating my pulse still.

She gave me more saline solution, and left me to sleep for another hour and a half. I was able to rest throughout the night but never really slept soundly. When Laura returned, my fever had broken to about 98.8. I was able to hold enough liquids that I was able to sweat again, so she left me again to sleep. She came in again around 5:30AM to check my temperature and to give me more Acetaminophen. I woke up around 8:00AM and was able to eat a couple pieces of toast and drink a cup of chamomile tea, in order to take another dose of Cipro. Though I was beginning to feel better, Laura thought it best that I stay at the base rather than join the team for their free day in Puerto Escondido. When I asked her the cause of the infection, she told me that Anjelica suspected less-than-sanitary handling of the food and dishes in Amuzgos.

I felt well enough to join the team for morning prayers and devotions, which were held in the Casa de Oraciones. Duane led the team in taking communion, and the team prayed for one another and washed one another's feet. After prayers, we had breakfast, of which I was able to eat a few bites. The food and the walking around left me feeling slightly queasy, so I returned to my room to take another Lopiramide while the team left for Puerto Escondido.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 8:45PM - Roca Blanca

I spent yesterday as a rest day at the base. I passed the time walking around the base, checking my email, reading, and resting. I talked with some of the summer school Spanish language students, and found out that we have an evening trip to Peurto Escondido planned for Friday. I sat in on the afternoon Spanish class and also discovered that several students will be leaving from Huatulco Saturday, when I also head home.

The team returned around 8:30Pm, and had the final presentation video and evaluation/sendoff meeting. Afterward, I turned in for the night a little before 10:00PM. I slept soundly through the night, until I was awoken abruptly at 4:30Am, with an urgency to pray for Stephanie. I didn't know the particular need, but I prayed for her physical well-being and safety, as well as emotional well-being, strength, peace, and comfort. I tried falling asleep, but mostly rested until my alarm went off at 7:30. I got up, showered, and joined the team to help send them off to the airport.

Elias asked me to stay and help with some work around the base, rather than help drive, so I stayed behind. While waiting to be tasked, I checked my email and discovered that Stephanie had emailed me at 4:30Am to tell me that she was suffering a tachycardia episode, and might need to go to the hospital. While I was obviously worried, I also thanked God for being in control, even to the point of waking me up to intercede for her. Even so, I checked my email again several times throughout the day, as she said that she would email me to update me, especially if she went to the hospital. In the meantime Geraldo asked me to paint the railings for the stairwell at the guest house. Laura instructed me to work slowly and to take breaks; neither would normally be in character, but so close to the episode I had just experienced, I complied. I worked for an hour and then took a break. Following this pattern, I was able to finish the first flight in a few hours. Given the intricacy of the railings and necessity to take care not to paint other nearby surfaces inadvertently, the work was slow-going. Since laborers were working on the third-floor wall directly above me, I also had a near-constant cavalcade of cement raining down on the painting area. So after completing the first flight, Geraldo told me to stop for the day.

By lunchtime, I felt hungry, so I had mole chicken with rice with some of the students. I was able to eat most of the plate. After lunch, I spent some time on the beach with Joseph and Rachel, the Spanish class teacher and one of the students, respectively. I returned to take a shower, and was invited to a church service in Cacalote with Laura. We missed each other, though, so I checked my email one last time, and found out that Stephanie was doing well. Much relived, I spent the rest of the evening reading.

I ate a muffin and some crackers around 8:00PM so that I could take my Cipro for the evening. (This morning, I took it but in the excitement of the team leaving, I forgot to eat, and found out why food is required with Cipro.) While I was journaling, Elias stopped by to tell me our plans for the next couple of days. He wants me to help clean and repair the computers at a business in Rio Grande, owned by one of the base-graduated church pastors there. He also wants me to help install AutoCAD on his own computer and teach him how to use it, so that he can draw out several construction drawings for the base. Tomorrow, he wants me to help him back up the data and files on his computer. (Elias and Ruth are preparing to spend two years in Veracruz doing mission work there.)

Friday, 28 July 2006, 7:40AM - Roca Blanca

My alarm went off at 7:30Am yesterday morning, but I slept until 8:30, when I got up to take my medicine. I then slept again until after 10:00. Even though I got almost twelve hours of sleep, I was still tired. I joined the others for breakfast, though I didn't eat anything because I had something to eat when I took my medicine. I checked my email briefly, and then went to find Elias for our day's projects. We drove over to Rio Grande to run a few errands and to do some work on a friend's computer. Elias needed me to show him how to convert CorelDraw drawings into AutoCAD drawings. He has several construction plans for the base that he maintains. As a bonus, through converting the drawings I got to see the conceptual designs for the base expansion plans. We made a few more stops in Rio, and then returned to the base for lunch. After lunch I waited for Elias at the office, and then we went to his room to do some work on his computer. First he needed me to install AutoCAD and then help show him how to use it. Then we did some file backups and hard drive cleanup, in preparation for his move to Veracruz.

Afterward, I returned to my room at the clinic to take my medicine, and found Ganbi and Cecilia - two of the students - in the kitchen making cookies. I spend the rest of the evening with them, discussing relationships, and Stephanie, and the guy Ganbi is interested in back home - though the conversation kept returning to Stephanie, since they were really interested in the story, and I can't help taking about her. We made some rounds at about 10:30 to deliver some of the cookies they had baked, and then I went to bed.

I woke up at 6:25AM this morning to go to the beach to watch the sunrise.

Friday, 28 July 2006, 9:45PM - Roca Blanca

After watching the sunrise on the beach, I returned to my room to journal and to take my medicine. I went down to the comedor to read for a while before breakfast. I wasn't hungry yet by the time breakfast was served, so I went to check my email for a few minutes while waiting for Elias. When he arrived, we spent the next few hours doing internet searches and research on projection screens. While we were working Ganbi brought me the breakfast plate she had saved for Cecilia, who wasn't hungry.

When Elias and I finished our work, I returned to my room, to begin packing and to take a shower. I had a quick lunch and then went with Cecilia and Ganbi to spend the late afternoon/early evening in Puerto Escondido. We changed some money and they helped me find the gifts for Stephanie that I was looking for. We then had dinner at a local restaurant on the beach, along with Lydia, one of the women who work on the base and who had accompanied us to Puerto to do some shopping of her own. As we left the restaurant to return to the base, a light rain began to fall and an impressive lightning display began.

Sunday, 30 July 2006, 9:00AM - Saint Louis

We returned to the base and I finished packing. After journaling, I went to bed around 10:00PM, hoping to get up early enough to watch the sunrise again. My alarm didn't go off, however, and I woke up just after 7:00AM. It was still raining, though, so I wouldn't have been able to see the sunrise, anyway.

We left the base for Huatulco at 8:00Am. Ganbi and I were on the same flight to Mexico City, while Joe, Doug, and Rachel were all on a later flight. We arrived in Mexico City and I made my way to find out my departure gate for DFW. Ten minutes after the scheduled time to begin boarding, I was finally given the gate. However, the plan was late boarding and even later leaving the gate. We took off almost an hour late, and I only had an hour and twenty minutes scheduled for the layover at DFW. The plane made up almost 30 minutes in the air, giving me hope that I could clear immigration, claim my bag, clear customs, re-check my bag, and still make my flight.

I was sitting near the front of the plane, and ran all the way to immigration. Amazingly, the usually long lines were empty. I was the first one from my flight through immigration, and made my way to the baggage claim, now even more hopeful that I would still make my flight. Unfortunately - and inexplicably - it took almost a full hour from the time we reached the gate for our luggage to arrive at the baggage claim. I claimed my suitcase at the exact minute my flight was scheduled to depart.

I breezed through customs (having nothing to declare), and went straight to the American Airlines counter. I was placed on the 10:00PM flight to Saint Louis, along with at least two other passengers from the Mexico City flight. Several other people missed connections as well, including another mission team heading home to Canada from Mexico City. (Interestingly, one of the groups de-boarding from our plane in Mexico City was yet another mission team, though I can't remember where they said they were from.)

Since I had almost three hours before my flight, I found an outlet to charge my phone, while I called Stephanie. After talking for about an hour, I decided to make my way to my gate, and find something to eat along the way. After eating and getting a coffee, I found my gate with an hour to spare. I passed the time talking to another man who was on the flight from Mexico City, and missed the flight, even though he got his luggage and sprinted to the gate, arriving two minutes prior to the departure time. We boarded and I slept a bit during taxi and takeoff. After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Saint Louis, where it took yet another 35 minutes for the luggage to reach the baggage claim.

I finally arrived home a little before 1:00AM.

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