On Saturday we were planning on going to the Red Sea, but there was a hiccup getting our passport information to the police department in time. Rather than trying to push it through, we decided to just take the day and relax at the hotel with some of the Wellspring staff. It was Lydia’s 14th birthday, and she was treated to “Happy Birthday” in Arabic by the hotel staff. Turning 14 in Egypt … what a cool memory! After a time of debriefing with our team, the students went to the pool to swim, and the leaders had a time of sharing with the Wellspring staff, sharing our feedback and learnings with one another. After a few hours of fun in the pool we went to the mall then out for dinner. You would think that is a simple thing to do, but we sat in our vans for an hour waiting. Our security detail had gone home for the day, and the hotel security did not want to release us to go unaccompanied. Eventually our hosts were able to work it out and we were able to leave. All day Sam had been asking what we wanted to eat for dinner. “What are we going to eat for dinner?” he asked. He then asked, “Fish?” But we realized through his repetition that it wasn’t an invitation for other ideas. He wanted fish! LOL! We went to a nice seafood restaurant and had a wonderful last dinner with our hosts. There were lots of hugs and tears and pictures as we said farewell to our new friends. We really did have a heart connection with one another that was so special. The beginning of new friendships! We went back to our hotel and turned in by midnight. We got up, packed, had breakfast at 6:30am, then headed to the airport. We had to go through 3-4 security screenings before we were able to board the plane. It was very thorough! The flight home was fine. We shared our Care Cards with one another. After landing we went through Immigration and Customs, got all of our luggage, and emerged from baggage claim into the welcoming arms of our very happy family members. This was an amazing trip! One of my all-time favorites! Thanks to Wellspring for such a wonderful experience, our leadership team which was made up of a perfect mix of people for the task and challenges that we faced, and our students, who were unified, upbeat, and served so well. I am proud of all of you!
Today we were led in devotions by Nitha, Gabe, and Adriana before heading out and going to the pyramids and sphinx of Giza. We went on a camel ride and went inside one of the pyramids and saw one of the tombs. It was simply amazing! Afterward we went for lunch at a beautiful restaurant with a panoramic view of a part of Cairo. Several of our team members were hit by the heat at the pyramids, despite going in the morning to avoid the intensity of the afternoon sun, so sitting in the shade was a very welcome experience. We then returned to the hotel and cleaned up for church. We attended Kasr El Dobara Evangelical Church, the largest in the arab world, where I had the honor of preaching to over 1,000 young people. It was amazing to be in the presence of God’s people as they worshipped together. Our team was impacted powerfully by their passion for the Lord and their resilience in the faith. After church we went to a restaurant for a nice dinner. We arrived back at our hotel at midnight. What an incredible week it has been! Thank you for your prayers and support.
This morning we were led in devotions by Lucas, Natalia and Rachel, then we headed to the final day of the Wellspring camp. It was a great day, and it was neat to see how different things felt today compared to the first day. Lydia said it well this evening, “I really love and am going to miss my kids.” There has been a relational connection between our team and the kids as well as the staff of Wellspring, and coming to the last day was actually a bit sad. Throughout the day I was in the office with Sam, Tom, and a few of the Wellspring staff and we were inflating and making balloon animals. It was fun teaching Sam and Tom how to make these simple little things that are such an amazing way to make kids happy. The parents arrived at 1:30pm for the finale of camp and were able to see some of what their kids experienced this week. After farewells and cleaning up we returned to the hotel for an hour then we headed out again. We were able to go eat earlier today, and we went out for an Egyptian favorite meal, koshary. We then drove back to Garbage City and visited an orphanage. We were only able to be there for an hour, but we made balloon animals, did face painting, and enjoyed playing with the kids. We sought to bring a little joy to the children but our team was really heavy-hit emotionally. God really gave us a glimpse of His heart, and there was a lot of tears and deep thinking and conversations happening during our ride back to the hotel.
On Wednesday we had a very long and full day. Same morning routine and day at camp. We had a lot of fun with the kids. One quite powerful thing did happen today. One of the camp counselors had an allergic reaction to something and Santhosh was able to help get her stabilized and took her to the hospital. It was a pretty serious situation, and his expertise was invaluable! After the camp we returned to the hotel for just one hour, then we loaded up and headed to the bazaar for some souvenir shopping. It was quite an experience and gave us a chance to see life downtown. Our bodies are still adjusting and we were all quite tired. They eat dinner between 8-11pm here, so the adjustment in daily rhythm has been interesting as well. We went out for a great dinner together about 10pm. Another change for me is not having coffee all throughout the day, and I was personally was so exhausted that I was falling asleep at the table. We got back to our hotel at 1am. Talk about a long day. I have been so impressed with our team. We are working hard, it is hot out, and we are maintaining a pretty rigorous schedule as our awesome hosts really want us to experience Egyptian culture, but everyone is remaining very positive. I am so proud of everyone and the unity they are exemplifying. Those who were experiencing some stomach issues yesterday were mostly doing better, but a few others were hit today. From experience this is just a normal occurrence when traveling internationally as the bacterias are different than our bodies are used to, and from what the folks at camp say this happens to all of the Americans who come. We have been very blessed to have Dr. Santhosh on our team, and we are embracing the joy of the Lord as our strength and the truth that His grace is sufficient for us. I would love for us to all be able to enjoy our time without “the revenge of the Pharos,” so please pray that we could all experience a healing touch and be rid of these stomach aches.
This morning several of us on the team woke up with stomachs not too happy about the incredibly delicious food we had last night for dinner. Dr. Santhosh’s breakfast office was busy. Jen, Tabitha, Santhosh, and Ryan shared devotionals with us. We had another good day at camp today, and I was so proud of the team for the way they embraced God’s grace and gave the children their best even though they were not feeling too well. We took it easy with what we ate throughout the day, and thankfully by afternoon most of us we were past the worst of it. Adriana and I were able to slip away for a quick lunch with some family friends who are doing His work here in Egypt. We all returned to the hotel for two hours to rest and clean up, then we drove to Manshiyat Naser (Garbage City) which is the a section of the city that is almost all Christians who handle all of the garbage and recycling of the city. We visited the famous Cave Church – the largest church in the Arab world. It seats 20,000 people! We had a tour guide named Maged who really loves J and passionately told us the history of the church. After our tour we went for dinner and returned to our hotel at 12:30am.
This morning we had breakfast at the hotel at 7am. We then had Hannah, Joy, and Rebekah lead our team in devotions before loading the bus and heading to camp day 2. As expected today was a bit smoother now that we are more acclimated to the flow of camp. We returned to the hotel at 5pm and were able to enjoy some swimming, hanging out, and naps before being picked up at 7:30pm for dinner. I personally have only managed a little over 2 hours of sleep each of first two nights, so an hour and a half nap was much-needed. For dinner we headed to a local mall which, as all places here at night, was buzzing with people for dinner. It was at the mall that we experienced the first division in our team. Given the option between Lebanese food or sushi, we sat at two different restaurants side-by-side. Who do you think won? I’ll give you a hint: The sushi people were running over to the Lebanese food table and taking food to eat at their table. lol! We got back to our hotel at 10pm and had our team meeting outside. We had some excellent sharing time during our debriefing. We headed to our rooms at 11:15pom and are turning in now. We are having a wonderful experience and are learning a ton! Thanks for your prayers.
533 more miles traveled today. This morning all the boys got up at 6am and drove to get showers at the YMCA in Asheville. The girls chose to get a bit more sleep. We then packed, cleaned, ate breakfast, loaded up and departed at 8:15am. After a 7 hour drive we arrived at The Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, NC where Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first persons to successfully fly an airplane. Our theme for the day was Vision, we following our visit we had some great discussion during our drive to Moyock, NC where we stopped at Southland for Eastern Carolina BBQ. We then drove over the border into Chesapeake, VA and passed by our old family home, and Natalia and I popped by to say hello to our dear former neighbor Miss Frances who has been having some recent health issues. We then drove to New Life Church in Deep Creek, VA where we are spending the night. New Life is the first church I served at in full-time ministry. After settling in I was so blessed to have two of my former students, Rachel and Jeremy, come by. Rachel shared a greeting, then Jeremy Miller, who is now a pastor at the church, spoke a great word to our team. We are really lookingforward to more sleep tonight than we have had on either of our first two nights, since we don’t have to drive far tomorrow. We are having a great time!
This morning our crew of 15 left Shelter Rock Church and began our 5 day discipleship road trip. Each day we have a theme, Scripture reading, meditations for everyone to contemplate, journaling, small group discussion, and Bible memory verses. We then visit a historical site or museum that connects with our theme for the day. Today’s theme was Justice and we visites the Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. We discussed the terrible injustice of slavery in history, where we continue to see slavery in the world today, and what God expects of us as Christians. We then drove to Belle Vernon, PA where we are staying at a wonderful church. After getting settled in and making lunches for tomorrow we gathered together for sharing, worship, a word from Santhosh Paulus (one of our leaders) about his work of fighting human trafficking through his organization, Cycling for Change, and prayer. It was a great day, and we have 390 under our belt.
Last week I was speaking at a camp in Virginia. I called home Friday night and Claudia Mahaffy informed me that my parents (who live in Chicago) were meeting my brother Ben his son Isaiah (who live in North Carolina) in Charleston, WV on Saturday to return 2 of my nieces, who had been visiting my parents. It just so happened I was supposed to fly out of Charleston on Saturday. We were able to arrange a quick 30 minute visit before I headed to the airport. It was so awesome to see them even though it was brief. Of course, then my flight was cancelled and I ended up having to rent a car and drive the 600 miles home so I could be at church to preach Sunday morning.
Last week I had the great joy and privilege of speaking at a Group Mission Trips Workcamp in Pocahontas, Virginia. It was a blast being able to share and see students out serving. There were 216 campers from 14 churches and 8 different states. They served on 37 different work crews at 25 different homes and completed all of their projects. They served a total of 6,480 hours and also donated 2,050 cans of food to bless the community. So proud of them!