Colorado

Earlier this summer, Tony & I decided to take some time to head to the mountains. We had first planned the trip as a babymoon. We had just wanted a place to go and relax (and maybe attempt a hike or two?!). Then we lost Elizabeth, and realized that a trip away was EXACTLY what we needed.

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One huge blessing was having our friends Alex & Stacy join us for the week. They left their children at home to come with us, which made the trip fun, but also was a huge encouragement to us. They’ve been great friends to us through this whole journey towards Uganda and the loss of Elizabeth this summer. They also are skilled euchre players.DSC_0344

A friend of ours offered us her family’s condo in Breckenridge. This meant that we got to take in the perks of a ski town in the off-season and enjoyed this view of the mountains every morning from our balcony (with coffee in hand).

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We took time to relax, but also had some adventures. One morning we ventured on the bike path out of Breckenridge over to Frisco, the next town. It was a 20 mile round trip, which was long enough to feel the burn, but not so long that you can’t take in this:

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We also did some hiking, including McCullough Gulch and Lower Mohawk Lake trail.DSC_0376The afternoons brought some rain storms. We didn’t have the best rain gear which made things challenging– way to make it work, Stacy!!
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We found a place near by that offered zip-lining down a mountain.                                      It sounded too good to pass up.

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…and it was fanTAStic!P1130208

The thrills, hikes in the woods, dinners with friends, and many, many card games were all very therapeutic. It was just what we needed to close out a difficult summer.DSC_0581

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Back to Uganda

We just returned from a 10 day trip in Uganda. It was great to go back to Restoration Gateway (RG) and see all the great things that are going on. In many ways, this year was similar to last year. We lead a group of 12 people to Karuma, Uganda, where we had a schedule filled with a few projects around RG, played with the kids, and ran several medical clinics in some of the surrounding villages. This meant that I was able to practice “extreme pharmacy” working outside of huts and oftentimes, with farmyard animals (goats not pictured).

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But rather than re-tell stories about medical clinics and RG projects from last year, we’ll focus on the highlights from this trip.

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Our friends, Steve & Bridget, moved to RG in November with their 2 kids. We had a great time working alongside of them!

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Steve & Bridget’s house is almost finished! We were able to walk through their new home, and were excited to see luxuries such as outlets in the walls, tile on the floors, a solar hot water heater, and enough land for a huge garden in back.

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RG borders the Nile, and in the past, we’ve been able to see views of the river from RG, but this year we adventurously hiked down to the water.

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Being this close not only gave us great views of the mighty Nile, but also allowed us to see Ugandan fishermen at work. I have a whole new appreciation for local fish now that I see the hard work it takes.

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While at RG, we paired up and had lunch in some of the orphan homes. We all enjoyed getting to talk more with the house mamas as well as the kids. Our lunch times often started shelling G-nuts (peanuts) with some of the kids on the front porch.

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RG dedicated their Dental Center on April 20th. We weren’t around for the dedication, but many of our RG days involved helping with finishing touches & painting. Since it was “all hands on deck” to finish the Dental Center, we were able to work alongside many of the workers at RG, and had a great time with them.

What are we doing in this picture?! We worked with Immanuel & Norbert (not pictured) to make stencils to paint a sign for the Dental Center. This turned out to be quite difficult.

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We had an opportunity to go to dinner at the homes of one of the RG workers, Ronald. We traveled by boda (motorbike taxi) to his village. This is as much fun as it looks!

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Many people in rural northern Uganda still live in traditional mud thatch huts and farm the areas around their homes. Ronald was a great host, and even took us all on a walk through his village before the sunset.

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Bridget took us to the market in Karuma. I had been through Karuma before, but never knew this market even existed! This is where you can go to buy fabric, vegetables, fish, and deep-fried ants (Alex was brave enough to try a few of those!)

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Bridget took a group of us to go visit a local government hospital. On the way, our van broke down. We waited for Steve & Brian to come take a look at it. They diagnosed the problem: the drive shaft was sheared, preventing the van from move forward AT ALL. But it could reverse. So the amazing Steve Hurry, with the help of Brian as a front look out and myself as a back lookout reversed the van 4km back to Karuma (through 2 traffic stops). The rest of the group was able to go on to the hospital in a different vehicle.

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As always, it was an adventurous trip!

The Canyon

Slot:River PicThe time had come for the canyon trip that I had heard so much about…….and I was excited.  The days of talking about food and whether to go with a tarp or a tent and other planning details were ending; and the miles of walking was soon to begin.  The team was composed of guys from the current training school class and some others who desired to join our band of misfit pilgrims.  Larry and his son Arum would be guiding us for the next 5 days, having traveled this route many times before, apparently with great success as they were still around to do so this time.   The area we hiked through was a slot canyon – roughly about 45 miles long. The first full day was a 13 mile push to get through a section known as Buckskin Gulch, a place where you don’t want to be if it’s raining anywhere upstream.

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I’ve always loved being outdoors – for as long as I can remember something has always drawn me to nature.  Something happens when I enter into a space that hasn’t been  manipulated like most of the world we live in.  I think there’s something pre-wired in us that gets turned on when we step out into the raw landscape that God’s designed.  Everything seems to become more clear…..images, sounds, colors, smells and for me thoughts….The world with fewer roads, fewer people and less ways to connect lets my mind rest.  I found myself referring to the time in the canyon as a “de-cluttering reset”, a place where I didn’t worry about the details but panned out and got a glimpse of the big picture.

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The trail presents some interesting challenges, slightly different for each of us.  The obvious things of course, hiking with a 50lb pack, falling, constantly being wet due to river crossings, quicksand, animals, etc….but for others the fear was less physical and more personal.   I found myself walking each section with something on my mind, even if that something was to try to walk peacefully and clearly.  I prayed, I audibly spoke to God in a very real and free way.  I listened, I would walk for miles with nothing on and no one around, just listening.  I walked with brothers who shared their hearts, the things they longed for and things they feared.    I wrote some notes down, nothing poetic or worth publishing; mainly things God put on my heart and some answers to prayer.  Yes the canyon was a place where I went to walk and talk with God and my fellow friends and brothers. I had expected it to be an epic trip…..and it was……..

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Tijuana


When we told people we were going to Tijuana for a week with the training school, we often got one of two responses. It was either “why?” or “be safe”. Certainly, Tijuana’s had its rougher years. Just a few years ago, when the drug cartels were at war, crime was way up, but now things have settled down, and believe it or not, there were more homicides recorded in Chicago last year than in Tijuana. (To be fair, my mom tells me to be safe when I go to the windy city as well.)

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What was surprising about Tijuana was how close we could be to the US, and still be in a totally different world. Getting into Mexico was as simple as walking across the border. It was literally as easy as walking through a gate. No one even asked for ID. But now on the other side, I was in a place where the language was different, I couldn’t drink the water, and I had to pay to go to a public restroom.

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One of our first stops was to the border. The line is marked by a large metal fence, then a secondary fence behind it, cameras, heat sensors, guards, helicopter patrol, and some barbed wire for good measure. I wasn’t really shocked by all of this, because I’ve heard that the border is strongly guarded. But the view from the Mexico side showed how overwhelming and intimidating the border is.

This visit brought up many tough questions about immigration laws that I’m not really interested in.  I came away with really just one thought: What do the people living right next to the wall think of America?

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While in Tijuana we stayed at Tijuana Christian Mission (TCM), an orphanage for about 30 teenagers in the city. Here we tested our Spanish, as that was all the children could speak. Staying at the orphanage also put us in a great part of town, just walking distance from things like late night taco stands. The tacos were so good we went every night.P1110734

During one of the days, we went to a canyon that had been used as a city dump. It hasn’t been an active dump for seven years, and many families have now moved into the area.

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We walked through the streets, still littered with the sights & smells you’d expect in a dump.  Some houses were built with salvaged materials, some were built with concrete. Regardless of the seeming permanence of the homes, we heard that most people won’t leave the dump– they just live their life amongst the trash.

It’s hard enough to believe people live in these conditions. It’s even harder to think it’s only 20 miles from San Diego.

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Near the end of our walk, we came upon a small church in the canyon. While talking with the pastor, we learned that some of the people in the church make lunches and take them to other communities who don’t have food.  I couldn’t believe it. I had just walked through this community, amazed by the poverty they live in. Now, here this pastor is telling me that their faith calls them to reach out to help those who have greater need. It was beautiful, and truly humbling.

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We encountered some rain during the trip, which meant we couldn’t see the younger kids. TCM has their orphanage in Rosarito– a nearby town with dirt roads that become impassable when they get muddy. We were disappointed to miss that opportunity, but enjoyed an afternoon inside with the older kids, playing cards or music and rolling tortillas for dinner.

37109_10100283479916409_1918069074_n I was thankful for the slow pace, it allowed us to enjoy time together and with the kids. It was good to get away from the business of America and embrace the pace of Mexico.

1st Anniversary

Tony & I have been married 1 year! Our first milestone. We decided to celebrate by getting away for a couple of days, so we drove to Cincinnati and promptly relaxed.         

For dinner, we crossed into Kentucky to go to Virgil’s Cafe. Tony learned that while we missed their “bacon happy hour”, he could order poutine for dinner. What is poutine, you ask? It’s a combination of fries, beef, and gravy. In my limited experience, it could either be an unimpressive fast food dish (as I had in Toronto), or it could be made with sirloin strips and caramelized onions, which Tony devoured.

The weekend was great, and Cincinnati allowed us to have a very loose itinerary. We went to see the movie Lincoln, ate at great restaurants, and watched boats along the riverfront. One thing we were sure of, is that no matter what we do, we really enjoy being together (which is kinda the point, right?). Anyway, bring on year 2!

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Toronto

Just 15 hours after returning from Alaska, we left to go on our first trip with the training school. The drive to Toronto took about 12 hours, but the road trip provided great opportunities to get to know the 14 people we’d be spending the next 9 months journeying with.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19

Jesus says these words at the beginning of his ministry. It seems almost like a mission statement, as he spends the next 3 years doing all of these things. Then in Acts 1 when Jesus gives his final commission, right before he ascends back to Heaven, he tells the apostles to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea & Samaria, and to the end of the earth. The rest of the book of Acts then tells how the apostles carried on the ministry of Jesus.

As a people, we in the training school are posturing our lives so that we can be on mission with Jesus. But part of this journey requires that we first look to see who are the poor, captive, blind & oppressed among us. We have been trained in this world to ignore those who live on the margins– and so this first trip to Toronto allowed us to open our eyes, hear stories, and to begin to see the world through the eyes of Jesus.

We spent 6 days walking the streets of Toronto, meeting many different people & understanding parts of their story. We also learned how to eat communally, often having only $1 or $2 each to buy an item to bring back to share with the group. Shockingly, we never went hungry. There was always enough.

This was a great first trip and opened our eyes, but also allowed us to get to know each other well. Since our trip to Toronto, we’ve begun our morning class time, where we continue to discuss and learn. We do have a few more trips lined up, including a return trip to Toronto later in the year.

Alaska Vacation Top 5 List

In my opinion, there are fewer things at the end of a vacation that are better than a good Top 5 List.

Other than our honeymoon, this was the first big vacation Tony & I have taken, which means over the past 10 days we have learned a lot about each other and who we’ve become as a married couple. This list is a reflection of some of these.

1. We enjoy a local experience. Not only did we eat here several times, we stayed in cabins right behind the Salmon Bake.

 

2.  I have an “athletic pose”. In this picture, I actually stopped paddling to pose and pretend that I was paddling. I have no idea why I do this.

 

3. Tony is not quite the dog whisperer he wishes he was. We went to visit the National Park huskies at Denali to learn that while friendly, the dogs are really only obedient to their trainers.

 

4. We are suckers for a tourist-trap photo-op. Take this one for example: we’re being pulled on a sled by huskies that are fast asleep, and have a random blonde child in the photo (we could not talk her into getting out of the picture).

 

5. We have become similar: