Sunday, August 02, 2015

Mexico Mission Trip '15

After returning from the Strahm vacation, we spent about a week at home before we loaded up a church van and headed south with a group from our church, partnering with Concern International.

As I sit to write about this, I'm having a lot of trouble of trying to sum up our time there. In fact, I've sat here for several hours, several different nights. (It doesn't help that we have started working through the Prison Break TV series again on Netflix. Weird confession: Prisons highly intrigue me.)

Anyways. Its really hard to type up a blog about 10 days worth of purposeful activity. But, here goes.

We drove. Yes, drove, to Mexico. Straight through. That was a bit painful and exhausting. But ultimately, its good for team bonding. It allows you to bring more luggage/supplies. And its a lot cheaper.

We arrived at Brazos de Amor orphanage in Agua Prieta, which is just past the Douglas, Arizona border area. Our purpose was to relieve the staffing from cooking, cleaning, and helping with the kids while we were there. Most of the kids in the orphanage are not "adoptable." Some still have parents - they just can't care for their kids. Others may no longer have parents, but may have other family members alive, but can't care for them. Others are true orphans. Mexico has some difficult adoption laws in place that make it extremely difficult for adoptions to take place.

We also helped with miscellaneous other projects, but our big project was to build a library while there. Leaders of Concern had already collected a number of Spanish Children's books, games, and toys. It turned out really good and the kids were super excited to have a room to hang out in, books to read, and a place to call their own.
Adam putting his woodworking skills to work - building shelves.

Putting my art skills to work.

We also spent time handing out hygiene kits and toys to a colony in Agua Prieta. This is inhabited largely by those that have come to cross the border and then they realize its not that easy. Many have very few belongings and make homes from what they can find.

This might be my favorite picture from the trip.
This boy was so excited and grateful about a little stuffed animal.

We also travelled to a rural mountain community called Ros Bayo that Concern works with. We helped package and hand out hygiene kits. We also put on a community service, dinner, and kid's activities. One woman serves as the main liaison in the community. It was a privilege and inspiring to watch her interact in the community and to see all that she does for them. We enjoyed camping in her backyard and eating her momma's cooking.
The road to Ros Bayo. Only about 40 miles. But it takes 2-3 hours to travel it.
Buying goods from the bread lady.

Two peas in a pod. You must become one with your puppet for optimal performing.
Sorry. Sideways.
This community loves baseball. Adam brought some equipment for them to have.
They were super excited and grateful.
These boys liked the puppet show.
Learning to make tortillas from the bread lady.
There is a donkey in her backyard that is busy grinding the grain into flour.

A few thoughts/memories/take-aways from the trip:
- We were a little discouraged that we could not get more youth to go on this trip. We took 6 high school/college age girls. Plus, Adam and I. Plus, 3 Concern Staff. But the size of our group ended up being a big blessing. All hands were needed and important. Sometimes with larger groups, its harder to keep everyone busy with tasks or relational ministry. Its harder to go places and do things. The size of our group was good for interacting with the orphanage kids....which was only at about a dozen kids at this time of the year.

- Being in another culture, I was reminded once again that Jesus has no bounds. We worshipped at a local church Sunday morning. I remember being moved to tears while a young woman prayed. I understood very few words in her prayer, but I could see her heart. And it was earnest, eager, and full of passion as she came before her Lord. I also remember seeing a dad worshipping through clapping and dancing. He tried to get his teenage son to join him - which resulted in an eye roll. Couldn't help but smile at the passion he had and that he didn't care what others thought while he worshipped....even if it meant his son was embarrassed by him. :)

- I loved the slower pace of life in Mexico. Our culture drives on me at times at the fast pace and the push to obtain and achieve as much as possible. My heart was reminded to be content and grateful for all I have. This life is not about how much money we can earn, how much stuff we can have, or how busy we can be.

- Short-term mission trips have gotten some bad press over the past few years. Questioning whether or not they are worth the money, if they help the locals at all, or if they are more of a burden than a blessing. Questions as to whether or not intercultural trips should be taken when there are needs across the street. Well, having gone on and having led numerous short-term mission trips, both cross-culturally and semi-locally, I am a firm believer that they are still a worthwhile venture. Lives are changed. Callings to serve God full-time are solidified. Worldviews are broadened. There is still something about being put out of your comfort zone, being challenged to try new things, seeing how other people live - its completely worthwhile to send and to go on short-term mission trips. They typically have a deeper impact on those that go, rather than those that receive, but I'm still an advocate for short-term mission trips.

- Never underestimate where God might show up. We happened to witness a divine appointment in Burger King before we crossed over the border into Mexico.

And a potentially less life-changing, but nonetheless, important thing we learned:
- Never, ever turn down chips when they are offered.  Right, Dan?  We were on the way to Ros Bayo when we came upon a delivery truck that had a flat tire. It would be HOURS by the time they walked to the next city for help. And it would be dark by then. Very few cars came by on this road. We stopped and Dan offered them the use of our jack and helped as they swapped out a tire. Before we left, he offered them a Bible. In return, they offered him some chips. CHIPS! It was dinnertime. We were hungry. We were still not at our destination. Some of us were struggling with empty stomachs and motion sickness. Dan said, "No, thanks." Oh man. There were shrieks, mourns, and minor rioting when he told us that they had offered him chips. We had trouble letting this go. Its probably for the best that Dan was not highly affected by our response. :)

This was a great trip! So thankful that grandparents were able to help watch our kids so that I could join Adam and the others on this trip. Praise be to God for all that we experienced and all that was done and may we be reminded to live every day with great purpose and mission!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tate turns 6!

Our middle kid turned 6 a few weeks ago....(still trying to catch up).

There was a bit of self-induced guilt over not being with him for his birthday. Adam and I were in Mexico on a missions trip....yep, still have to blog about that too. We tried really hard to hype it up that he'd get to spend his birthday at grandma and grandpa's house and that we would celebrate with him when we got back.

He doesn't seem too sad about it here. :)

He got to do some special things at their house. An all-boys sleepover with his brothers and a 2nd cousin. Stromboli for dinner. Shopping for his presents.

And then we still celebrated once we were back together! 
Adam and I were still somewhat in a coma from driving back from Mexico the 2 days before. But on our first day back together, we let him open a few presents from us and a few cards from others that had been mailed. And then we said, "Now what?"

In good form, as many a 6-year-old would reply, he said,

There was a mix of relief, since it is an easy request to appease - yet, also remorse for asking since I really am not a huge fan of the place. 
But when you are low on energy and your brain and body are still so tired that it can't think of anything else to do, Chuck E. Cheese's it is. 

I've already determined that he will have a super awesome backyard birthday party next year.
The last 2 birthdays in our family have resulted in trips to Chuck E.Cheese's. 
Ugh. I'm distraught about that.

Anyways. It was a Monday and a beautiful day outside. So, the place was empty. 
We had a really fun time.

And then we went out for ice cream later that night.

Here's what our Tate is like at 6:
- 50 is his number! He's 50lbs. And he's 50.25 inches tall. He's at the top of the charts for height and he's holding steady with his brother who is a year and half older than him.
- He is still very passionate about dinosaurs and dragons, although sharks, whales, and other sea creatures typically pique his interest more.
- He loves catching frogs and toads. 
- He learned to ride a 2-wheeler bike earlier this summer and he's making great strides at learning to swim.
- He can be very spastic and crazy at times where I feel like I can hardly control him......yet, he can also be extremely affectionate and lovey as well.
- I'm more and more convinced that he is an introvert and I'm trying to better understand how to help him feel confident and flourish - especially when we have very busy lives that keep us around people a lot. 
-  He'll be going into Kindergarten this fall and he's very capable and ready. I'm really glad we were able to get him into a Young 5's program the previous year. He'll be one of the oldest in his class, but I think he's going to do really well. 
- He has deep brown eyes and the sweetest smile. Gets me every time. 
- We love having him as our boy! So blessed to be his parents!  
Holding a caught toad.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Strahm Family Vacation 2015


In an attempt to keep the blog covering the momentous (and sometimes not-as-momentous) events in our lives, I'm going to need to do a little backtracking.

The Strahm clan took a vacation back in June! This is my (Becca's) family. My parents. My three brothers. Their wives and kids. All together there was 20 of us gathering.

We headed to the tropical land of Hocking Hills, Ohio.
I say that in jest. Ohio is not tropical.

Although, our time together was lovely.
And this area was considerably remote (no cell phone service) and picturesque.

We rented a ginormous house that comfortably fit all of us.
And we vacationed.

Here's a few pics to give an idea of what we did:

Taking a train ride.

A bike ride.
Hiking in Hocking Hills State Park.

Decorating cupcakes.
And we did all of our meals in-house.
There was some VERY good food!
Swimming at a local pool.
(although we only enjoyed this for about 20 minutes before it started downpouring. It rained a lot the week we were there)
Playing outside. They had a basketball court, volleyball court, swingset, a few kids toys. 
Playing games.
(This game is Ticket to Ride. I won. I beat my mother and my 3 brothers. I'm trying to be humble about it.
But it's really, really hard) 
I sniped this one from the house, although they caught me, thus the big smiles.
I just thought it was funny at how they were both sitting.
The grandkids.

The lot of us.
The siblings.
Pictures only capture so much.
It was a good week of getting away and being together.
We do this every other summer and I'm very thankful that we get to do this since none of us get to see each other regularly.

Where to go for the next Strahm family vacation???

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sending Kids to Camp

Adam drove a bus full of kids and youth up to camp on Monday morning.  
Adam and I both grew up going to camp and we highly value the deep impact it can have on one's life. Camp takes them out of their routine, out of their comfort zone, and they are challenged to try new things, make decisions on their own, and perhaps, have a new view on life.
Specifically, Christian camps, can have a tremendous impact during the formative years.

We both talked about how we would make a point to send our kids to camp.

And then we had a kid old enough to go. 


7 years old?! 
That's old enough to spend the night away at camp?!

For the sake of fun, here's a picture of me going to camp for one of the first years.
I'm the girl in the back wearing blue.
And yes, it really was called Pee Wee Camp.
My mom took 5 of us girls and dropped us off.
Our Rainbow Brite and CareBear sleeping bags.
I still remember the homesick wails of girls throughout those 2 nights.
And the girls that were so excited to sleep in the top bunk.....
and then those same girls that fell out of the top bunk in the middle of the night. 
I remember it being really hard to sleep.

Thankfully, Landon was super excited to go to camp. 
(He went last week)
No hesitation whatsoever, even when we told him we didn't think any of his friends from church would be going to the camp he was going to that same week.  I asked him if he still wanted to go. He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, "Mom, I'll just make friends with the other kids in my cabin."

I have a new respect for parents sending their kids to camp. 

I didn't get weepy when we dropped him off. That's just not my style.
But I did have a few internal moments of,
"How can this possibly be a good idea?!"
"This is NOT a good idea!"
"There are over 20 7-9 year olds in this cabin! And 2 counselors?! Two male college-age guys that have probably done very little childcare!?! I have trouble keeping track of my THREE children sometimes! How are they going to watch TWENTY kids?!??????"

And I quizzed him:
Me: "Landon, if they ask you if you know how to swim, what are you going to say?"
Landon: "No, I don't know how to swim."
Me: "But what if you see the cool water apparatus things and you want to go on them, but you have to know how to swim."
Landon: "I just won't be able to go on them since I don't know how to swim."
Me: "Whew. Ok. Good."
(Repeat....multiple times)

He was so excited though.  
He had packed most of his items with little instruction from me. And he did quite well.

Admittedly, I lost some sleep the next few nights he was away.  Wondering if he was sleeping good. Concerned that since I had sent him with some allergy medicine to take at bedtime that he might be too groggy to get up if he had to go to the bathroom and he might wet the bed.  That could scar him from wanting to go to camp again......forever. What if the other kids weren't being nice to him? What if he wasn't being nice to the other kids? What if he got lost? What if he got seriously injured? 
They would've called me by now......right?

But I didn't hear a word for those 3 days.

When we picked him up, he bounded in, excited to see us, and excited to tell us about his week. 
He talked much of the 40-minute ride home.
His favorite part was the Zipline.
His least favorite part was that I hadn't signed him up for the entire week.
He spent the majority of the snack shack money we had allotted him and he readily admitted that he didn't eat any vegetables the past 3 days.

 Here's a few pictures I took from his camp's Facebook pages:

So, as an encouragement to those sending their kids to camp.
Or to those that know it might be something coming up in the future. 

Just do it. 

Don't be what holds your kids back.
Don't let your apprehensions and anxiety rub off onto them.

Obviously, some kids will struggle more than what Landon did with being away from home someplace new. We know we had it pretty easy.  But as parents, we can set the pace and the attitudes in our home.  If we present camp (or other things) as an exciting opportunity - and not a scary new option - they will sense some of that.
Camp gives them the opportunity to spread their wings a little, test their decision-making, and learn about their faith away from their parents.  Plus, they generally have an enormous amount of fun.

And I assure you, as a former camp counselor, although childcare may not be a very deep item on many of their resumes, they are genuinely interested in caring for and investing in our kids.  At Christian camps, they are primarily driven by the chance to share the love of Jesus with kids. Most of them are foregoing better paying summer jobs so that they can get up in the middle of the night to take kids to the bathroom and sing funny songs with motions.  Being a counselor was one of the most stretching and rewarding times of my life.

And being a camper was right up there too.