Heaven, Baseball, and English

Heaven, Baseball, and English

“We are strangers here; heaven is our home.” 

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

When thinking about Vacation Bible School this summer (January – our seasons are upside down), we realized that even though we live in Linares, we have many relationships in Longaví where we teach. Then the idea emerged, “Why not have two Bible Schools this summer? We can have one in Longaví and one in Linares!”

And so the idea grew and God blessed it:

  • We learned that a volunteer (Abbey Fehr) was interested in coming to Chile during the first week of January to volunteer and assist with VBS.
  • We found a beautiful partnership with the Teens for Christ at Lakeside Lutheran High School who were interested in donating materials.
  • Several of the youth at our church were very excited about the idea and wanted to help.
  • The director at my school in the countryside of Longaví gave permission to us to use the school grounds.

 

As the logistical pieces started to fall in place, we began to plan what VBS would specifically look like. In the past, VBS has only been done in Linares and it seems that a great percentage of attendees had been church kids who are now well into their late teens. We brainstormed ideas of how to reach out to the community and of how to spread interest. Realizing that four of the VBS leaders were from the United States, certified teachers, and native English speakers, we developed the idea of combining devotions with free English/baseball lessons. This further spun into the theme of “We are strangers here; heaven is our home.” The goal was to interest as many people/children as possible with free English and Baseball, but then of course the ultimate goal was to share the gospel with them and the beautiful reality that we are all foreigners here and that our true home in heaven has already been won for us!

It was truly a joy to work closely with the Teens for Christ from Lakeside Lutheran High School and their advisor Ruth Hirschfeld! I met Ruth when she attended a presentation Jon and I gave about the Linares mission at a church in Fort Atkinson. She came up afterwards and offered the idea of partnering with her students to get materials that could be used at our church for activities like VBS. At the beginning of November we were able to share with Ruth our ideas for VBS and what materials would be helpful and difficult to get in Chile (like baseball bats!). She and her students went to work and WOW the outcome was truly an incredible blessing.

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Here are the Teens for Christ students. They organized a what looks to be an incredibly yummy bake sale that raised over $300!!! I believe it lasted several days! 

It is a pretty special thing to think of all the students and faculty members who helped us through this bake sale.

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This special young lady and her mom fought against the snow to buy tons of materials for our church to use for events like Vacation Bible School. 
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WOW – We have enough materials for SEVERAL events!

On top of this wonderful bag of donations and ALL of the work the students did during the bake sale, one of the students also applied for and received a special grant for the Kingdom Worker mission in Chile. Our ability to live and serve in Chile is partly dependent on donations. This young lady’s big heart and application for this grant meant that over $1,000 was donated in addition to the materials items. What an incredible blessing!!!!

We are excited to send special words of thanks and hugs for Ruth and her students with Jenny Proeber who will be visiting the states in February!

Volunteer Abbey Fehr arrived in late January, and her presence and help was just wonderful. She brought with her the suitcase of donations from Lakeside, and she helped us to create the VBS lessons and materials needed. Abbey is a teacher in a bilingual school so her Spanish skills were an additional blessing and allowed her to build relationships with church members and VBS students.

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Welcoming Abbey to Linares!
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Abbey and I celebrating as we unpacked the donations from Lakeside. 

In addition, Abbey’s church raised the money needed for her to come to Chile. Because of this blessing, Abbey donated the money she personally had raised to VBS as well! This extra financial donation covered additional costs including baseball hats with the VBS theme for each student, daily snacks during VBS for students and volunteers, printing advertisements for canvassing, printing materials in general including the daily devotions so that they could be sent home to the families, and a car rental to help in transporting materials and volunteers to Longaví.

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Here is an example of the baseball hat that each student received. 

The VBS in Longaví was held for two days at the school where I teach. Since this was our first time hosting VBS in Longaví, we figured two days would be a great starting point. As mentioned above, the theme was “We are Strangers Here; Heaven is our Home.” Students that attended received passports that guided them as the “traveled” through daily devotions, English mini-lessons in various countries, and learned how to play baseball. Each student received a Lakeside folder that could house all their materials. This way they could easily take materials home to share what they learned each day with their families.

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Each day began with a devotion. Here a member of our church, Camilo, is teaching devotion on the first day. During this devotion the students received their passports and filled them out. They learned how important passports are and that they are the “ticket” to being able to travel and to live in other countries. Camilo then attached this earthly lesson to a spiritual one with the questions: How do we get to heaven? Do we need a passport? What do we need? It was a beautiful introduction to Jesus and His death and resurrection – the perfect “ticket” to eternal life. We don’t need to do anything but have faith. He did it all! 
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It was really cool to see the young men of our church step up to lead these devotions. It turned out to be a neat partnership. Jon was able to write the devotions while Camilo (who is majoring in English) translated the devotions and lead them with another church member Sebastian. 
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Here Patricio is filling out his passport. There is a line that reads: Final Destination. There the students wrote “Heaven!”
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After devotion, the students headed outside to different countries or stations. Every day they rotated through these countries to learn a new skill in English and to receive a stamp in their passport. 
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Here is Jenny teaching adjectives with actions. 
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Here I am teaching “to be” verbs. 
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Abbey had the Party Station! Students learned basic invitation vocabulary. Then they were able to dress up and practice inviting (what, where, when, time, address etc.) one another to a party. Check out Pastor in his nice bow-tie. 
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Camilo held down the number station. It was pretty cool for the students to see a Chilean who is in college learning English. 
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Students especially liked the numbers station because they practiced listening to numbers and putting a Teddy Graham on the correct number. If they were correct then they got to eat it! One of our church volunteers liked the Teddy Graham’s so much she asked Jenny to bring some back for her after her visit to the states.  
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Jon teaching baseball basics. 

The students  LOVED baseball and every day asked to play longer. They especially liked trying the different sized bats out and progressing from using the tee to being pitched to. It was such a blessing to play in the shade of the school playground. Chile summers get hot!

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At the end of each day, Pastor lead the group in closing questions and prayer. 
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It was during this end of the day discussion that little Martina realized that you don’t have to be a “good girl” to go to heaven. The ticket is our Savior Jesus and having faith in him. 
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Lots of hugs for Tia Abbey! It was such a blessing to have her with us. 
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A special treat: these two students compete in the local cueca (Chilean National Dance) competitions. They were happy to do a dance for us! 
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On the last day we created names for our baseball teams and painted faces before playing. The beautiful lady painting faces is Fran, another church member. She helped each day by getting our lunch/snack ready and participating in the activities. 
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Group Shot! 
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At the end of the last day students had their passports checked. If it was complete they received a prize!
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The prize was a globe (thank you Lakeside students!) with the VBS theme and bible passage written on it. The globe, plus the baseball hat and folder of devotions and materials, will hopefully serve as reminders to the children of their true citizenship and home in heaven freely won and given to them through faith. 
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VBS in Longaví allowed us to share Jesus not only with the students but also with their parents and the assistants who were working at the school. Many parents expressed gratitude and hopes for VBS to be run again next year and for many more days. “You should have this every Wednesday and Thursday for all of January!” Assistants, like Yohanna pictured here, asked many questions about what we were doing and about our church. Yohanna really wanted to wear one of our t-shirts and brought blackberries to share for all the volunteers and students. 
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So thankful for these young men and their help! 
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Also thankful for these beautiful ladies and their help! 

As a whole, it was wonderful to have VBS in Longaví! We look forward to doing it again next year hopefully for a full week. We realized that we have a lot of support from our schools and parents who shared a lot of details about VBS through social media. God is good!

Now, if you guys know us, then you know that we just couldn’t let Abbey leave without seeing some of our favorite sports in gorgeous Chile! We had an afternoon adventure drive up into the mountains and a day trip at the coast. In one afternoon and one day, Abbey saw both sides of Chile!

At the end of January, we had VBS in Linares. While Abbey was here, she helped us to canvas in the neighborhood of the church to spread the word. We also posted announcements to the very active Linares facebook page and canvassed again in the busy downtown plaza. VBS in Linares was very similar to the one in Longaví except that we were able to use the church for the lessons!

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Every morning, as we waited for everyone to arrive, we played a fun learning English card game with Tia Jenny. The kids loved it!
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Jon and Sebastian lead the devotions every day centering on the same themes of heaven, Jesus, and faith. We sadly don’t have many pics of this part because our camera man was leading the devo! 
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Here is Ricardo with his passport. He was so proud to remember the word “Heaven” in English!
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The English learning stations were outside in the shade of our new church! 
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Church member Isabel stopped by one afternoon with her grandson. She brought snacks for the students to share and hung out with us for the afternoon lessons and prayer. 

Students learned many things throughout the week including numbers, colors, shapes, food, like & don’t like, descriptions etc. They were a wonderful little group with positive and very excited to learn attitudes. One mom texted us saying,”Antonella has been so happy to participate and comes home every day talking non-stop about what you did that day.”

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Just like in Longaví the kids LOVED baseball. Here Jon and Jenny are teaching the basics of throwing. 
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Every day we took a little walk to the neighboring fields to play. The suitcase that Lakeside sent turned out to be a huge blessing in itself for hauling baseball materials!

The week of VBS in Linares turned out to be quite eventful. Chile has been experiencing its worst forest fires in history and many are in our region. During this week, sirens were going off every couple hours as our fire fighters rushed to help neighboring cities. During the first half of the week we could see the smoke in the distance, however on Thursday afternoon we were in for a shock when suddenly thick smoke rolled into Linares causing the town to shut down and everyone to move inside and to close up all windows/doors. News spread quickly that fires near to us were moving closer and that the famous Super Tanker plane was working to drop water on those areas. Other news spread that the fires were close to our electrical grids. We spent the afternoon making the necessary precautions and praying for our fire fighters. God answered and the fires were pushed back! We are feeling very safe now with most of the fires nearby out and one under control.

Because of the fires and smoke roll-in on Thursday, we canceled VBS for it’s last day. It was a sad but necessary precaution. However, we were so happy to hear from the mom of some of our students who shared that despite the smoke and fire alarm, Lukas and Aneis still wanted to come to say goodbye to us. We were able to give them hugs and their globe prizes. Their mom was so happy and asked if we would be doing the same thing next year as well. Another of the students dropped by our house with his mom over the weekend to say hi as well.

As whole, it was such a blessing to be able to teach VBS twice this summer in two different cities. It is special now to look back and see all the pieces that made it possible: Ruth and her Lakeside students, Abbey and her church, members of our church here, parents who shared the news, etc.

We are already excited for VBS next summer!

 

 

A Chilean Christmas

A Chilean Christmas

Man, time has flown by!

Here it is already January 11th and I haven’t even sent out an update about Christmas in Linares! My excuses rest on finishing school, several visitors, and a Vacation Bible School. However, as my hubby says, “Who wants excuses…blah blah blah!”

Our Christmas season was packed with many wonderful memories and good people. On the 23rd we celebrated Jenny’s birthday party out on her patio with popcorn, ceviche, and raspberry mojitos. Sadly, we got no pictures that night, but you should know that her house was decked out with Christmas decorations and that many wonderful people came to celebrate!

We celebrated Christmas Eve with our Chilean family Gustavo, María Rosa, Carol, Antonio, and Mateo. It began with a impromptu photo shoot when María Rosa came to pick us up:

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Followed by a delicious dinner as always!
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Which was then followed by opening gifts and waiting till it was officially Christmas Day. As you can see, the previously mentioned Christmas photo shoot was too much for someone…

Christmas Day began with our church family. It was an extremely special event since it was held outside in the foundations of our new church building! Church President Ariel and his sons worked hard to ensure that a roof was up before the service.

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Ready to worship! When one of the members saw the church set up, she began to cry tears of joy. She gave me a hug and said, “We have just been waiting for this for so long!” Please notice the BEAUTIFUL Christmas banner! It was given to the church by Jenny’s mom. The pictures below are from when members opened the gift and listened to Jenny translate the letter  from her mom into Spanish.
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A Christmas morning church family picture
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The service was followed with cookies, fellowship, and a Christmas play organized by Erika, the Church President’s wife.
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Santa Claus even showed up after the service to hand out gifts to the youth!

Following the special Christmas Day service, we headed out to the country to celebrate a “Foreigner Christmas” with dear friends from Brazil. It was an afternoon filled with much needed rain, games, dogs, great food, and wonderful company.

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Looking back at our jam-packed Christmas weekend, we are filled with so much thanksgiving for friends who have become like family, and for our Savior who came to save the world – a world that seems to get smaller and smaller with the more people that we meet. Thanking God for beautiful progress on the church building, beautiful moments with His children, and a beautiful message of hope wrapped up in the form of a little baby.

Merry (belated) Christmas from Chile!

We are Godparents!

We are Godparents!

Several weeks ago, Jon and I were asked to be Godparents to a beautiful little baby girl in our church! I have been meaning to write a blog about this special moment for some time now, but I have been struggling to put into words how meaningful this was for Jon and I.

JOY: My heart leaped when the mom reached out to me about the possibility of us being Godparents. The role of a Godparent is incredibly important, and we are so so so honored and touched.

THANKFULNESS: Thankful for God’s never ending love and grace. It was a beautiful moment watching little Isabella become a part of His family.

HOPE: The hope that Isabella and her parents grow forever closer to God throughout their lives. The hope that Jon and I can grow closer to Isabella’s parents as friends and as spiritual brothers and sisters.

Isabella’s baptism day was especially beautiful thanks to blue skies, many happy friends and family, and a church newly decorated for Christmas. I’m happy to share many beautiful pictures with you – they are far better than my words anyway!

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Our church has a gorgeous stone baptismal fount that we dragged to the center of the front of the church.
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Hearing about the blessings and promises of Baptism.
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Her eyes got really big when the water hit, but she went back to sleeping adorably right away after.
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The beautiful parents and their little girl!

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How else to summarize but: Oh Happy Day! 

Thinking also our other beautiful little goddaughter Amelia. We can’t wait till we can see you again!

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Changes, Candles, and Ceviche

Changes, Candles, and Ceviche

The month of December has held many different seasons for me, both literally and figuratively.

There are the “perfect” island childhood memories of:

  • Night drives to Advent services. The Henrich kids would always have competitions to see who could count the most Christmas lights/trees. We especially loved when Dad drove downtown on our way home so that we could score extra lights from the stores.
  • Fighting over the leftover wax from the Advent candles after church. (Man, we were weird) We loved to play with the wax to see who could make a perfect cube out of it.
  • Listening to Dad’s CDs: Sandy Patty Christmas, Father Ho Lung, Calypso Christmas, etc.
  • Baking Christmas cookies! We shared baking days with mom making all our favorite cookies. Mine were the candy cane cookies, peanut butter balls, and Hersey kiss cookies. The missionary families would always exchange plates of their specialties.
  • Decorating the tree and setting up the manger scene. I have no clue when it happened, but at one point in time I took over setting up the tree duties. I LOVED putting on the lights but “kindly” allowed sisters and brother to help me with the ornaments. We set up the manger scene by taking out the wrapped up pieces one by one. Suspiciously, sister Erin always got the prized baby Jesus…. hmmm.
  • and of course the anxious waiting for Christmas Eve which meant presents time and the special reserved cookies that had been hidden in the freezer.

Then there are the Christmas’ that weren’t quite as fun. Some filled with culture shock and the sadness that surrounds cancer. Some were Wisconsin cold, and some were just plain different! There were no more Steel Pan Christmas Carols or “Polar Plunges” in the warm Caribbean Sea. We were now too old to play with wax, and we lived directly behind the church so there were no special trips to look at the lights. Those Christmas’ were my first taste of the reality that Christmas would not always stay the same.

Then came the “new traditions” years of Christmas musicals, significant others, weddings, special family trips, and now a niece, nephews, and a little sister who is big enough to escape her crib! In fact, in our almost 5 Christmas’ spent together, Jon and I have had a Christmas tree only once. We just have never seen the point because Christmas’ have been spent traveling to spend time with family.

Now, here I am in Chile, typing this blog in shorts and a tank top with Christmas around the corner. There is not a single Christmas decoration in our house! Many are packed in boxes in my cousin’s basement back in Wisconsin. We did consider getting a tree this year, but the prices are a little insane and the reality that our dog Pudú will eat it is around 99%. Don’t feel bad for us though! Jenny’s house is a magical Christmas wonderland and whenever we need some Christmas spirit we head over there to get filled up. (:

Christmas seasons have held different types of weather, different traditions, different joys and different heartaches. Over time, I have slowly learned to embrace and even to love the diversity and changes that each year brings.

More importantly, amidst the changes of life, I have learned to truly treasure the one thing that has remained constant and will always remain constant: celebrating our Savior who came into this world to win us true joy no matter what life throws our way. His grace is our constant. His love is our constant. The reality of His sacrifice centers us. It reminds us that while traditions may change, our salvation through Him never will.

Although I can’t always sit in the warm sun on a beach during the Christmas holidays, I can always bask in the warm reminder and reassurance of His love and faithfulness that Christmas brings – That’s a good Christmas tradition!

This year, we ushered in the Christmas season with a special Advent by Candlelight service!

Jenny worked really hard to translate the Advent by Candlelight service sent out by the WELS into Spanish with one of our good friends and language master, Johanna. Ariel and Jon brought tables and benches from the church to our house, and I prepared the music and decorations.

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The warm weather and a covered patio made a perfect spot to make a big family-style table. People started to arrive around 8 pm. We hung out in the backyard until it was dark enough to light the candles. As male church members arrived, Jon handed them the program with highlighted sections to read. At one point there were 5 men in isolated corners of the house practicing their parts! (:
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The service was filled with readings, prayers, and songs that centered on how God’s light guided the wise men and how He continues to guide us today. There were about 25 people that came and 7 were visitors!
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After the service, we passed around the food that everyone brought to share. In true Chilean fashion, there were a lot of breads/cakes including special Christmas Bread (basically a fruit cake). A favorite was the ceviche brought by our friends from school. They even left a bowl just for us in our fridge. YUM!

Praising God for another year, another Christmas, and the reminder of His never-failing love given to us in the form of a little baby.

Blessed Advent and Merry Almost Christmas!

 

 

Thankful November

Thankful November

The Thanksgiving Spirit is in the air! The days are getting colder, everything seems to have pumpkin spice in it, houses are being scrubbed clean, and the stores are packed with people buying all they need for the perfect family dinner.

JUST KIDDING! 

Pollen floods the air, at times even looking like snow! The days are a weird mix of cold, jackets, and boots in the mornings and hot, sandals, and tank tops in the afternoons. Absolutely nothing contains pumpkin spice, maybe some houses are being cleaned, and the stores are already decorated for Christmas free from the “it’s still before Thanksgiving” shame.

The pilgrims did not land on the beaches of Chile, and thus Thanksgiving is not celebrated here. Turkey is not common, canned pumpkin rare, and sweet potatoes non-existent (well they could exist, but I haven’t found them yet).

We certainly won’t be celebrating  a traditional Thanksgiving on Thursday. In fact, I completely forgot about Thanksgiving until last Sunday! I believe we have a fun trip to the vet scheduled instead. (:

Regardless, one doesn’t need a pumpkin pie, a turkey, or sweet potatoes to be thankful, and man we have so much to be thankful for this November!

Where do I even begin?

1. Church Construction Continues! After a little lull, church construction has picked up again! We now have the foundation in and have poured enough cement to level the floor with our other building. The old building is getting a makeover as well with new coats of paint on the inside and outside. It is always fun to come to church on Sunday to see what changes happened during the week. We are so very thankful for the Arriagada family who have been the backbone of this project. Their love for God and for His people is overwhelming!

 

2. Two More Years! This past week we were called to a board meeting to “defend the English Program.” Basically, it was time to renew the contract between Kingdom Workers and Longaví, and the board wanted an update. Thanks in part to very kind words given by our directors and co-teachers in support of the program, our contracts were renewed for 2 more years! This is especially a blessing since generally teacher contracts run on a year to year basis in Chile. It is such a relief to have job security for the upcoming two years, and it is an incredible blessing to continue to serve in Longaví.

3. Vacation Bible School: It is only November, but we are already in full force planning for our two VBS’s coming up in January. It is very exciting to think of the kids who will be able to hear about Jesus in both Linares and Longaví! Also, a volunteer from the States will be joining us to lend a helping hand. It is going to be a fun summer!

4. Puppy Love: So no, we did not give up the dog that was abandoned outside of our house… and that is fully my fault. Never did I think we would end up with three puppies, but it sure is fun! They force us to take daily walks to play in the empty lot across the street, and they love when they are able to go to the mountains with us. More importantly, Coli has stopped jumping on my face in the mornings! She now prefers to drop her bone loudly on the floor to wake us up. (:

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5. Family Visits! Even though we won’t be seeing family for Thanksgiving, in January MY PARENTS ARE COMING TO VISIT! We already have their entire trip planned and are most excited to introduce them to friends and church family. Their only request was to NOT go on a 18 mile hike. (:

6. Social Media: It can be tough sometimes to not be close to family, but it is such a blessing to hear from them or see them through video every single day. Every morning I look forward to my Tinybeans updates that show my little sister, nephews, and goddaughter, and every day I look forward to texts and photos sent on our family Whatsapp threads. We love and miss you guys!

7. Devotions: Every week (Men’s Bible Study) and every month (Women’s Bible Study) fills us up. I am also beyond thankful for devotions that I have daily through email with friends from high school/college. Digging into the word pours so much joy into life and doing it with others is even sweeter.

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8. Our Home: About 5 months ago we were desperate to get out of the house we were living in. The many problems and black mold was making us both sick! Now we are so blessed to live in a beautiful home with space for the puppies to run (and dig – ugh Coli), with beautiful tile floors, and with a fireplace that kept us so warm this past winter.

9. Our Team: Man we have a loving and gifted Kingdom Workers team that we are blessed to work with! We meet to have devotions every Friday and have often prayed prayers of thanks that God brought us together here. We are especially thankful for Jenny’s fellow love of traveling and puppies and Kathy’s joyful and positive attitude.

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10. Busy Schedules: At this time last year I felt like a lump on a log! I could barely speak Spanish and some days felt so directionless. God certainly answered many prayers and now our schedules are happily full with so many exciting things and wonderful people. Big things are happening that we are so blessed to be a part of!

11. Poor Internet: Our struggles with internet seem to have been endless; however, our internet problems have been such a blessing in disguise! We are currently unable to watch any videos or download anything with the internet that we have now. That plus the fact that we don’t have a TV means much more quality time with each other and with others.

12. Travels: I knew that Chile was beautiful, but I never could have imagined all the amazing things that we have been able to see in this past year and a half! It is incredible that we live somewhere where a quick day or morning trip takes you to mountains, the beach, waterfalls, hot springs, volcanoes, etc.

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13. Juanito: God has blessed me with such an amazing hubby. I can’t believe that we are going on year 4.5 of marriage! Taking this leap of faith together has been such an adventure, and I thank God for him every day!

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14. Answered Prayers: Over 2 years ago, Jon and I prayed for a change in our lives. We realized our lives were “off-kilter” and desired to focus on filling up our cups with God so that we could in turn fill up the cups of those around us with Him and His incredible promises. Sitting here writing this, and thinking back to those original “what do we do” conversations brings tears to my eyes. God holds our past, present, and future now and forever!

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES! 

 

5 North Americans in a Chilean Mountain School

5 North Americans in a Chilean Mountain School

Several months ago, Jon’s co-teacher (Johanna) was describing a school that her cousin works at called Sofía Vásquez Rebolledo – Loma de Vásquez.

She described:

  • a school high in the mountains. (In fact, it is the last school in the Longavi region before the Chile/Argentina Border)
  • her cousin who teaches at this school twice a week and another teacher who lives at the school with the students.
  • the 11 students who attend this school.
  • a dormitory where the students sleep during the week because their homes are too far away to travel daily.
  • some students who have never met non-Chileans before.
  • families who pick up their kids for the weekends on horseback.

Jon immediately replied, “That’s awesome! I want to work there!”

From that day on, the incredible Johanna began to plan an opportunity for us to travel to this school for a day to met the students and to teach English.

That opportunity arrived last week Friday … and with an additional bonus! Pastor Steve Peterson (Missions Administrator for the Evangelical Lutheran Synod) and Pastor Matt Behmer (ELS Missions Board Member) happened to be visiting our church that weekend. We invited them to join us, and they happily agreed.

On Friday morning we hopped into Pastor’s car and met up with Johanna and her cousin Osvaldo in Longavi. From there they lead us into the mountains to where the school is.

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When we arrived, the students were finishing up a class so we took a tour of the school. Pictured here is the courtyard where assemblies and/or acts take place. Behind the stage you can see a soccer field and to the right an eating area for Fiestas Patrias (Chilean Independence Day). One of the teachers was excited to show us pictures of the time when this courtyard was filled with hail!
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We then sat down for a delicious breakfast of tea, warm bread, and little cakes. Pictured here is the kitchen on the left and the cafeteria on the right. You know your meals are fresh when the butchered meat is bought from neighboring farms and is weighed on this thing! 
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Finally it was time to meet the students! They were very timid at first, but by the end were talking, laughing, and even dancing with us. Here Jon is showing some pictures to describe the United States. 
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Johanna organized wonderful English activities that we were able to help out with. We reviewed colors and shapes. The color/shape BINGO at the end was a HUGE hit. Johanna left the materials at the school so that the students can continue to play in the future. Pictured here the students are learning the parts of the body through the song”Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” 
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After the students put together a body and labeled each of the parts. The students range from 1st to 6th grade and study in one room together. 
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Group picture! The wood building behind us is the dormitory where the students sleep. They all gave hugs goodbye and invited us to come back again. (: It is a beautiful school with very kind teachers and students. We would LOVE to visit again!
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Our visit was on a Friday so we were able to witness the parents picking up their kids to take them home for the weekend. Here is one of the modes of transportation. 
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After all the kids left for home, Osvaldo offered to take us to some beautiful places nearby. Here are Steve and Matt by Stop #1: Puento Malcho. 
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Osvaldo showed us a secret little beach only about a 5 minute walk away. We are ABSOLUTELY going to come back and swim! 
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Stop#2: This beautiful lookout of Volcan Longavi
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Stop #3: Another gorgeous lookout over the river. Chunks of this cliff fell during the big earthquake in 2010. 
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A final group shot. 

So many thanks to Johanna and her cousin Osvaldo for sharing this school and its students with us! It was a pleasure to be able to meet each of the students and to help teach English for a day. Both Johanna and Osvaldo work very hard for their students ,and we are so thankful for them!

Also, a thank you goes out to Steve and Matt for coming along and sharing in this experience with us. We greatly appreciate the work you both do to support the Lutheran congregations in Chile!

Mountain Ministry

Mountain Ministry 

It is always a prayer of ours that the Lord gives us opportunities to met and to build relationships with more people. Little did we know that He would use our social media and love of the mountains to do it!

Last weekend, Jon and I spent a morning in the nearby mountains with our puppies. It was GORGEOUS with fresh snow.

During the following week, I posted several photos from our adventures to facebook like the following:

Immediately we had coworkers, church members, and facebook friends liking, commenting, and asking us about our adventures!

Jon quickly came up with the idea to rent a small bus and to invite others to do the same trip again with us. We would have a two-day holiday on Monday and Tuesday so the timing for an adventure was perfect. He organized everything and the invites went out. Soon we had a group of 13 people ready to hit the mountains together! Some were church members, others from our schools, and others people we had never met.

While Jon and I dream of holidays and free time to spend in the mountains, there is not a strong hiking culture in Chile. It was fun to help some of the others decide what to wear and bring. Many were very concerned about the mountain weather since a snowstorm was in the forecast for later that evening. However, come snow or shine, the group assembled at 7 am on Monday morning ready for a mountain adventure.

#1 The Argentina/Chile Border. 

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The road winds up higher and higher until it flattens out on top of the Andes Mountains. While the official border crossing/customs is a much farther drive away, signs high in the mountains mark where the border actually is. 
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Group picture in Argentina! Two group members were so excited to be out of the country for the first time! 

At the border stands a marker that says Chile on one side and Argentina on the other. There is also a cross with a small sign that reads: “Donation from a group of friends. May our Lord Jesus Christ bless all that visit this place, 2003.”

#2: Laguna del Maule

Not far from the border is a gorgeous lake formed on top of a volcanic field called Laguna del Maule. It is the beginning of the River Maule that runs about 40 mins north of our town of Linares.

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#3: Mirador Monjes Blancos

After the lake we headed to a lookout over Valle de los Condores and a rock formation called the White Monks. Thanks to the storm coming in it was incredibly windy but still beautiful.

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The lookout
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Jon next to the White Monks

 

#4: La Cascada Invertida

You can easily hike at the border, or around Laguna Maule, or near the White Monks lookout, but we were on a mission to find a waterfall known for following upwards thanks to the wind. It is called the Inverted Waterfall or Rainbow Falls.

As were were searching, we stumbled on hundreds of people camping and rock climbing!

We discovered a different waterfall while in search of Cascada Invertida.

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And then we finally found the Cascada Invertida, and it does actually appear to flow up!

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La Cascada Invertida

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Overall, God gave us a beautiful day, and we made it back to our homes before the storm hit (the wind was so strong that rain came in through cracks by our windows!).

It was wonderful to spend a day with friends new and old. Everyone loved the experience, and we got many questions about when our next adventure would be. Better yet, some of these friends, who have hiked with us before, came with our church on an outing to the beach!

God answers prayers in so many ways and always for His glory.

Check out a video of our adventure here.

From Chile to Canada

From Chile to Canada

To this day I get chills every time I have the opportunity to sing “Shine Jesus Shine” in church. The music starts, and I immediately hear steel pan music. No matter what church I am in, I am transported back to Antigua standing and swaying to the music. I can literally hear the Caribbean accents sing-shouting “Set our hearts on fire!

There is something very special about the fact that Christians can worship hundreds of miles apart and yet be singing the same songs, speaking the same creed, and praising the same God.

This past Sunday I experienced the same chills.

A while ago, my dad had the idea to connect his congregation in Toronto, Canada to ours here in Chile for their Mission Sunday. Thanks to the very hard work of some of his members and Jon, the technology piece was figured out, and we were good to go on Sunday morning.

Our church members were very excited when they heard that we would be skyping in with another Lutheran congregation after our Sunday service. They immediately got nervous when I told them that they were going to be on a big screen, and when I told them that we would be singing a hymn together they responded with a laugh and “are you sure about that?” (we sing with passion, but with little musical ability – Good thing praise doesn’t depend on pitch!) After several singing practice sessions, everyone organized themselves so that they could see Jon’s computer set up in front of the church.

For a while we were able to see and hear my dad preaching, but the congregation in Toronto couldn’t see or hear us. It was fun to “snoop” in on another congregation and to watch our members analyze the church especially since many of them have never seen a Lutheran church that is not in a house or small worship space.

Once we connected, the internet did as it pleased going in and out. However, there were many highlights from our quick minutes together:

  • Waving hands and smiling faces on both sides of the Americas.
  • Dad speaking in Spanish to our congregation and them clapping and cheering for him at the end.
  • Jon speaking in English to the Canadian members describing our church.
  • Dad awkwardly asking the camera to zoom in on me. (=

But the best moment, and a tear-jerker, was when we were able to sing the hymn Amazing Grace together in Spanish and in English.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound (Sublime gracia del Señor), 

That saved a wretch like me (Que a un pecador salvó);

I once was lost, but now I am found (Perdido anadaba, él me halló,

Was blind but now I see (Su luz me rescató).

 

It was a powerful moment to listen to God’s people sing about His grace together:

  • not knowing personally who they were singing with, but knowing that they were singing together with God’s children.
  • not knowing much about Chile or Canada, but knowing that heaven is their home.
  • not knowing exactly how to pronounce the lyrics in a different language, but knowing that even though the words sounded different they were still singing about the amazing grace that has saved each and every one of them.

Chills! 

 

Check out this video from Hope Lutheran Church to see their Mission Sunday!

*A special thank you and much much much love goes out to the congregation at Hope. Following their skype time with our church they gave a freewill offering to support their brothers and sisters in Linares. As a Chilean member said, “The love of God is so huge, and it moves us so much. Send them our love and thanks!” 

 

A Time to Dance!

A Time to Dance!

Honesty check: We are entering the last two months of our school year, and as a whole this year hasn’t been too easy.

A very long story made very short: As many of you know, the goal of our English program here in Chile is to support already existing Chilean English programs and teachers by serving as assistants in local schools. Due to circumstances outside of my control, my role as an assistant has morphed into being the head English teacher for the majority of this year.

As a good Lutheran would say: What Does This Mean? 

Well… it has meant many highs and lows and many many emotions.

When we originally accepted our positions here in Chile, I knew that my job as an assistant teacher would be a tough transition for me. While I was 100% confident in my decision to quit my full-time teaching job, I knew that I would greatly miss it and that the role of being an assistant would really challenge me.

I was right! Changing my mindset from one of head teacher to one of supporting another teacher has been quite the humbling adventure. However, I knew that this was a journey that I wanted to be on. In fact, it was the original reason I wanted to move to Chile in the first place! To shift the focus from serving in my classroom to a greater focus on serving Him.

Well, not too many weeks into my new assistant position was I suddenly tossed into the classroom alone. Mental Shock! I had been praying and focusing on changing my mindset and here I was, head teacher again, working in classrooms of 30 kids with very very limited Spanish skills. This was exactly what I had NOT signed up for!

For the past year and a half, this has been my reality at school. Sometimes I am able to work with a Chilean teacher and other times (especially in more recent months) I have been left alone with my students and an entirely different school system than what I have been used to in the states.

Humbling? Challenging? Scary? Mentally Exhausting? YES, all of the above!

However, in the ups and downs of this school year, God has been giving me exactly what I asked and prayed for in the very beginning. An opportunity to realize and trust that while my work life has not been in my control, He has and forever will be in control. No matter what comes my way at work, I can still have great joy in serving with the family of believers here and in sharing Jesus with my students, faculty, and parents.

And so … as I brace myself for the last two months of school … I realize and am thankful for the many circumstances and lessons that are going to be coming my way.

Like Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.  

Recently, we had a beautiful opportunity to DANCE under the heavens at a wedding for one of our church members. It was a blast helping the family prepare for and celebrate Jose and Gabi. This wedding was a wonderful reminder for me personal that life goes on whether my job is perfect or not. (=

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The wedding took place at the groom’s family home. We spent the entire day before the wedding cleaning out a space in the family welding business located on the same property. 
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Freshly-picked flowers from grandma’s garden. 
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Beautiful homemade decorations
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The wedding party officially registering the marriage with a civil clerk. 
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Joy and so much love!
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The space was quickly converted into a banquet hall after the ceremony. Here the father of the groom is giving a toast to the newlyweds. 
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Time for some MEAT! Check out the groom serving his guests. 
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A delicious meal prepared by the family. 
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As the banquet hall was being cleaned up and converted into a dance hall, we had a blast with a goofy photo-booth. Here’s the bride and groom holding a sign that is the Chilean saying for “And they lived happily ever after.” 
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The dancing king and queen of the night
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Groom and his family
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Even Pastor and Ellen got in on the fun!
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The grandmas sat in the corner giggling during the photo booth sessions. We had a blast sneaking up on them and forcing them to pose for a pic!
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First dance
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Mother and Father of the groom: a wonderful example of Christian Marriage! 
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Dancing is more fun with props
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Enjoying the beautiful day
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Enjoying fun with good friends
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Cake followed by dancing well into the night. 
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Congratulations to the beautiful couple. May God bless you now and forever! 

How Great is Our God!

How Great is Our God!

Why hike?

  • Exercise in the fresh air.
  • Breathtaking views.
  • Quality time with friends and/or family.
  • Opportunities to meet or spend time with new acquaintances.
  • It’s good for the soul. 

I used to be an island girl, but thanks to many hikes with my adventurous hubby I just might be converted. The ocean is memorizing, but mountains scream at you. There is something to be said about standing somewhere were few others have stood, sweating like crazy and sore all over, staring into valleys surrounded by snow-covered peaks.

I just don’t have the words to describe the feeling that a good hike gives – only that it usually truly does make my soul sing! How can you look at the Tetons, drive from Vancouver to Banff, climb Machu Picchu, or walk along the tops of the Andes and NOT be moved spiritually? I have yet to go on a hike and not have the words of “How Great Thou Art” ringing in my head:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hand hath made. I see the stars. I hear the mighty thunder. Thy power throughout the universe displayed. 

When though the woods and forest glades I wander, I hear the birds sing sweetly in the tress. When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze. 

Then sings my soul my Savior God to Thee. How great Thou art! 

This weekend, Jon organized a trip to a close by National Park with a small group of people from our church and schools. Our little and insanely uncomfortable bus picked us up at 7:00 am and drove 1.5 hours into the mountains northeast of Linares.  Little did we know what was in store for us…

I challenge you to click on this link … or this one , to listen, and to scroll through the pictures below.

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The beginning of what would become a 13 hour and 18.5 mile hike!
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One of our first glimpses of the mountains through the trees.
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The view halfway up
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Pep talk by Victor
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Above the tree-line!
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And the mountains declare the glory of God!
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First look-out point conquered! the Enladrillado

 

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Pure joy
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Trying to do the condor pose just like my brother Scotty.
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Condor sighting! My pose must have worked (; There were a few that flew right over us. Pictures do not do them justice. They are just massive.
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Goofing off. Seba is a member of our church, and we had fun taking pictures that would scare his mom. (=
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Siesta anyone?
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A pretty cool place to take a break.
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Celebrating in the best way = fresh coffee
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A good looking guy and a good looking mountain and some good looking coffee
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This volcano is called Descabezado Grande which means “headless” or “decapitated”
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Photo #2 in operation scare Seba’s mom
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Reliving Jenny’s “most entertaining comments” from the hike up.
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It just doesn’t get better than this.
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Obligatory couple shot (=
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Snowball fight!!!! Can you spot the snowball?
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Photo #3 in operation scare Seba’s mom: FAIL! Jenny tried to throw Seba in the snow, but this is what happened instead…
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Boy Band Album Cover – in honor of Joanna and her love of bands.
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The flat top of the mountain was beautiful and erie. Check out the condors flying above!
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After the Enladrillado lookout, we hiked along the top of the mountain to get to an even higher lookout and lake.
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This was my favorite part of the day. We were so alone up there. Sometimes it felt like we were just on normal ground and then there would be view that would remind you that you were actually on top of everything!
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Girl Power!
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Another world
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higher and higher
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Queen of the world! Jenny officially declared this hike to be cooler than Machu Picchu.
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Onwards to the lake at the top.
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We found it! And I discovered that Chileans hike with chocolate milk. Why have I not thought of this before?
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The snow was really deep here so we had to be careful not to fall through.
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It was a wonderful day with these beautiful ladies and many many laughs. One of us might have fallen and rolled down this hill… which one was it?
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Group shot. (I just realized that it looks like Joanna has one leg)
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Trying really hard to not fall through the snow
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Many parts of the trail were marked with these rocks.
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Excited to come back to just visit the laguna so that we can see it when the sun is directly above and maybe do some swimming!
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Last view on top of the Andes before the great descent.
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Our timing was perfect because the sun was just starting to set.
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Blessed with wonderful weather the entire day.

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From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord be praised!
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Egg yolk in the sky

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We ended up having to hike for about 2 hours in the dark to get back down to our bus. Thank goodness for headlamps! Here I am giving Jon my best “I’m so tired face.” Thankfully everyone made it back safely and had a great time!

Jon and I LOVE to travel especially by camping or hiking. It was wonderful to share something that we love so much with others. We are hoping to do many more trips like this with others in the future.

What an amazing God we have who gave us such a gorgeous creation!

If you would like to see a short video of our hike click here.