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The start of an Irish adventure

Hello family and friends!

My team and I have been in Ireland for 6 days now and it still seems surreal to be in such a beautiful country. We’ve seen and done so much in the short time we’ve been here already.

On Friday, Kathi Perry, an EFM missionary in Greystones, Ireland, met us at the airport when we arrived and we made our way to the YWCA where we spent our first few days. We ate dinner at a local restaurant called the Beach House and Natalie, Heather and I went for a walk by the ocean to kick off our trip.

Saturday, we rode the train into Dublin and were able to spend the day exploring the city. We visited Trinity college, the Chester Beatty museam, Dublin Castle, and Christ Church. We got to try our first fish and chips and did roughly 9 miles of walking!

On Sunday, we attended Greystones Nazarene church and enjoyed fellowshipping with the people there. Afterwards, we ate delicious tacos at Kathi’s before doing work in her back garden. We painted, powerwashed, and cleaned lots of things. Our team had a lot of fun serving her together.

Monday, we spent our morning and afternoon doing some work at the Nazarene church. They allow Kathi to use their building for her toddler ministry so we wanted to do some things to help them out. We washed toys, pulled weeds, and reorganized their library. Monday was also RL’s birthday so we celebrated when we got back with crepes at the Crepery around the corner from where we’re staying. We tried to go get ice cream afterwards but the shops close at 6 on Mondays and we ended up at the beach instead. We had a wonderful time walking along the beach and climbing the rocks along the shore together.

Yesterday [Tuesday], we spent the day traveling to Belfast. We made several stops on our way here, one being Malahide Castle and Gardens. This castle was built in the 1100s and was owned by one family up until the 1970s. It was gorgeous and so fascinating to learn about the history behind that place. After that we drove to New Grange. New Grange is what is assumed to be a tomb of sorts that predates the book of Genesis and the Egyptian pyramids! The engineering it took to build such a structure that has lasted this long is incredible. I am still blown away by both of these places. Before this trip, the oldest building I’ve probably seen is roughly 200 years old. As an American, I have no concept of what it would be like to see generations worth of work put into a single structure like that.

Today we started our day in Belfast at the Storehouse. This is a ministry geared towards helping those in the city in any way they can, whether they’re asylum seekers, homeless, unemployed, etc. Their focus is to create relationships, provide people with their basic needs, and to help them grow and move beyond the things that they’ve been struggling with. I was amazed at how Christ like this establishment is. I thought a lot today about the story of Jesus and the woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She was an outcast in their society and was probably in deep poverty because of it. Jesus doesn’t just heal her and send her on her way. He stops the crowds that are around him to take time to acknowledge her and call her daughter. In doing this he’s given her dignity andnis allowing her to actually become a part of the community again. That’s what this organization is doing. They’re giving people their dignity back, helping them rejoin society, and giving them a place to be in relationship with people. I’m learning a lot on this trip that being like Jesus is often just engaging with people and learning about them and showing that you care. It was an amazing experience and I’m excited to go back and help more tomorrow!

We spent the rest of our afternoon on a tour of Belfast. It was fascinating and sobering to learn about the conflict that is still a reality for the people in Northern Ireland.

I’m so excited to see what God has for us all to learn on the rest of this trip. Thank you for all of your prayers and support. I’m so thankful for this experience. ❤️

May God bless you richly!

❤️ Madi

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The ministry of the Men

Today the girls had the day off so they went shopping. The men however, had a great day of ministry. Beginning at 10am, we went to Helping Hands and began preparing lunch, while refugees showered and got haircuts. Today lunch was an Iranian salad comprised of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Which is seasoned with salt and pepper and mixed in olive oil and vinegar. This was accompanied by two boiled eggs, fries, cheese, and pita bread. While we were prepping the meal I had the privilege to converse with our head cook. I already knew he was from Iran, but I wanted to know more. We discussed how and why he came to Greece. He told me about his profession as a head chef over many people and how he had moved to the capital of Iran before coming to Greece. He has a great passion for cooking and is a joy to be around. While we discussed his life in Iran, he mentioned he was divorced and was forced to leave his home because of his belief. Then he mentioned how he was in a bad place for a time, but was given much joy as he found love from other Christians. During the conversation he reiterated the joy he now has with Jesus. “It’s okay now, I have found Jesus,” he kept saying. It is truly great that he has been able to continue forward and focuses on the joy he has been given through Christ.

As we continued in fellowship, I tried to play ping pong, but I am not very good. The guy I was playing against, after defeating me, allowed me to simply play more to get better. He believes that if anything is found to be difficult, one should continue trying until they have gotten better. This struck a chord in me. I got this feeling that no matter what difficulty comes my way I should continue at it until I master it. This does not mean I become the best, but that the fast does not become difficult anymore. I plan to use this philosophy through life and never give up, but find any way possible to work forward. After lunch, there was a lesson discussing decisions and the importance of them. It was long and after an hour or so, we took a break. During the break I began a conversation with Brad, another volunteer, and an Iranian volunteer. We began discussing more about our lives and the cultures we come from. This all began with a pot of coffee. We discussed how Greeks enjoy their coffee, while Iranians enjoy their tea. This sparked the conversation on culture. The Iranian volunteer discussed how his culture flipped over the past ten years. It was very family focused and family members would talk to one another but now that the economy declined it all stopped. He mentioned a scenario if I came over, I would be expected to stay a while and would expect to be fed. Now, people no longer feel comfortable going to each other’s houses, they do not want to be a bother on anyone else. It seems that the economy of a place gradually affects the interpersonal relationships. This conversation continued till the end of the lesson. We then cleaned the facility with help from the refugees and prayed for each other. This group of men deeply care for one another and they want to know if there is anyway to help them. God is at work in their lives and is blessing them daily. That’s all for today. Thank you everyone who has been praying for us. God is truly at work. Please pray for these refugees, for peace, safety and food. Thank you

Brad


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Mungu awa bariki wote.

Greetings from Kenya. May this post inform you that God is at work on the mission field here, and also to assure you that we are not yet dead.

Maizakha Friends Widows Group

On Friday night, we landed in Nairobi after 22 hours of continous flights and layovers from Wichita, to Denver, to Frankfurt, to our destination. Despite our shared exhaustion, we arrived in Kenya on time with no complications, and we rested well at the Amani Gardens Inn (formerly the Mennonite Guest House) before driving to Kaimosi the next morning for 10 hours. Again, we arrived safely and without incident at the Rural Service Programme Guest House next to the Friends Theological College campus.

In rural Kenya, widows possess the lowest status in society and are often considered to be cursed by their communities — somehow responsible for the death of their husbands. They are subject to much abuse and shunning. Through farming, many earn an income as little as USD $0.50 per day. The Friends Church has a very prominent presence in Kenya and sponsors many widows groups of women who financially and spiritually support each other.

Since Monday, we have visited four widows’ groups throughout western Kenya even as far as Mt. Elgon on the Kenya-Uganda border. We have assisted in the building of mud-houses for three of these groups and delivered goats to the fourth.

When we had arrived at the meeting place in the village of each widows group, we were greeted jubilantly by the ladies as they danced and sang beautiful call-and-response praises to God. We then would don our work gloves and assist in construction of the house. After this, we the JG team, the RSP staff, and the widows would sit together and enter into a time of introduction. In Kenya, to be known by name is a dignity denied to these widows, and the opportunity to introduce oneself in front of a group is reserved for “big people”. By engaging in this ritual of introduction, the widows’ status is greatly elevated and gives them the dignity that they are too often denied. After we all introduce ourselves to each other, we exchange gifts — from us, clothing, sandals, food, candy, calendars, crayons, medicines, etc. — from the widows, hens and fruit. We then share a meal, typically of tea, chicken, kale, bread, and ugali (corn mush) that the widows had eagerly prepared.

Our assistance in building the house has been almost entirely ceremonial. The widows had only handed us each a few mud heaps to apply to the walls of the building before inviting us to their table after thirty minutes of work at the most. At first, we were a little anxious to have been led away from labor after so little time and felt guilty that these poor women would lavish their food on us during the time of year known as “the time of hunger”. It all seemed so one-sided. We were supposed to serve them.

We came to realize, however, that most of the money we paid to go on this trip was used by RSP to purchase the wood, the nails, and the sheet metal used to build the homes and the goats, chickens, and other livestock given to the widows to assist in their income production. Besides, if the widows invited us to visit them, it would not primarily be so that they would totally entrust the building of their homes to some clumsy white kids.

The seemingly disproportionate response of these women was not because of our labor or our gifts, It was because of our presence. Whereas their very neighbors despise them and heap abuse upon them, a few comparatively very rich American college students spent several thousand dollars and traveled 4,000 miles merely to share a meal with them. We had communion with them.

Wherever we travel in rural Kenya, George, Shauntel, Amber, and I are greeted with excited cries of “Mzungu!” (“white person”) from the local people. We are perceived to be opulent and are immediately treated with respect merely due to the fact that we are Americans and because of the color of our skin. It’s a very uncomfortable fact, and it’s entirely unfair. But this unfair, unearned, and undeserved status the culture ascribes to us we use to demonstrate Christ’s love, and utterly confound the local people, when they find that the rich white Americans didn’t come to their market or their village to be treated like royalty but to share a simple meal with those considered to be unpersons. How much greater, then, is the love of Jesus — whose praise, adoration, and respect is entirely fair, entirely earned, and entirely deserved — when he left his opulence and status behind as King of the Universe to break his body, the bread, and pour out his blood, the wine, for us — the people who hated him and hung him. Our response to God should be like that of these Kenyan widows — joyous singing, dancing, and thanksgiving — every single day.

So, yes, we are still very much alive.


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Women’s Ministry and Bakeries

Hello from Greece! Marissa, Sarah, and I had the opportunity to go to Helping Hands today for Women’s ministry. After setting up for the day we had the opportunity to wrangle the baby room. Today was much more laid back as only 30ish people (including volunteers) enjoyed the time of fellowship. After games of tug of war, and Sarah getting wrapped up in jump ropes by small children, there was a small devotions time with the woman and the children. It was amazing to watch some of the children’s excitement as they flipped through the pages of their picture Bibles. A meal followed of delicious rice and chicken and fellowship time after, our afternoon concluded with chasing more small children around. I love the fact that we can be there to offer our support to the missionaries so that they can have time to do the things we are not equipped for, basically anything that involves speaking. We treated ourselves to pastries from a local bakery and then coffee which I discovered I ordered straight espresso with sugar. More energy for walking I guess! Now we wait in anticipation for some gyros after a long yet fulfilling day. Until next time! Anteeō!


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The adventure continues for Greece Lightning…

The past couple days have been full of accomplishments and some downfalls. Yesterday we went to helping hands and had the benefit of deep cleaning the entire building. This was not the downfall. We enjoyed every minute of it, whether it was dusting fans, cleaning every child toy, or scrubbing an entire kitchen. The total process took only a few hours and we got to work with a great crew of people. This included interns from Germany and Finland and a couple from South Carolina. There was laughter and joy the whole day. After we got back to the apartment we were pooped, exhausted we lounged around making tacos and discussing our day. We ended our day playing games of Uno Dutch Blitz before turning in early for the night.

Today we had the ability to serve the family meal at Helping Hands. This included getting up on time and arriving early, for a first, and praying with three staff before the day began. We worked with a crew of 25 to prepare the delicious meal. Many of us, the Greece team, were slicing cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions, while others made fries and sausage. As the time grew closer I found myself, Brad, working in the kitchen. I assisted Bonnie, the wife of the SC couple, in washing dishes before being pulled into dishing food. I gladly jumped on board and worked with five refugees as we fished meals for 160 people. It was amazing having the ability to work with them. There was joking and lots of gratitude. Most of them could speak English, allowing me to understand them. It would have been fine either way because it was blast. When I had the ability to eat lunch I sat and talked with one of the workers, Nick. We began discussing YWAM and the group of dead refugees at the table with us. As it turns out there is a group of refugees that are deaf. Luckily they found each other and have the ability to be a part of a community. Nick described how they normally have a volunteer come in and translate for them. However that person was not able to be there today, so they left after the meal. After the meal there is a message that is completely optional. A pastor from a local Farsi speaking church delivered the message. I did not have the opportunity to hear it. I was again in the kitchen, cleaning dishes. This was of course great because I love being in the kitchen. After the message we began to clean the tables and floor, where some funny incidents happened. I am sadly not at liberty to say.

After we cleaned, we had a debrief with the whole group of 25. During the debrief we discussed the happening of the day. The children learned a story about Jesus, some mothers had great conversations and others said by to a couple of friends. Before we began to pray, the pastor discussed his ministry and outreach. He had just visited a refugee camp where a mosque was built and had a strong concentration of Muslim activists. This caused the two families comprising of six Christians to live in fear. They could not deliver any Bibles or discuss anything Christian related with our possible consequences. There were two members who were baptized in the nearby forest. The pastor asked us to pray for these people, which I ask you to do as well. We prayed for many others and ended our time for today.

When we went back to the apartment we decided to make dinner. Tonight was my night to cook and everything was going well. There were three of us in the small, small kitchen and we were moving pretty well. As I began to finish the first batch of fried chicken, we turned on the oven and everything went black. The power cut out. We were clueless as to what caused it. After going out to eat and getting delicious crepes for dessert we discover a breaker was tripped. We thought it was just a rolling blackout but we were wrong. We had to settle for burgers and not homemade fried chicken. It was rather disappointing. I tried to order the crepes in Greek and just confused everyone so there was some fun in the end. As for now the day is drawing to a close and all I know is that I need to finish this blog. So farewell, till we speak again. Not that your actually having a conversation with me.

Brad

P.S. Greece lighting is the team name we came up with. One of us may have been too enthralled with Grease as a child.


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Ireland and Kenya 2019

We currently have three teams oversees: Ireland, Kenya, and Greece. Please keep them in your prayers. They will be updating us with blogs throughout their trip. Here are a couple of pictures from our prayer sendoff for Team Ireland, led by Josh Bunce, and Team Kenya, led by Nate Perrin. We did not snap a picture of Team Greece, led by Ryan Haase, the night before. Team India, led by Dave Williams, will be leaving later in the summer.


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Finally made it!!

After three days of planes being delayed, drones flying around, and cancelled airplanes we finally made it to Greece, only a day late! For the first few days it has taken us a little bit to finally realize that we are actually here. 

The first day we were here throughout the day we went to helping hands. We were able to help set up, make baby bags, serve tea and biscuits, help clean up, and just be in fellowship with the people we are serving with. I think during those four hours are actually serving the refugees helped us realize that we are in another country with English as not the common language. Speaking with the people of Greece we found was actually not that hard since they are slowing bringing English into the no We weren’t able to speak with very many refugees but smiles and nod were enough to communicate usually. Marissa and Cianna got to play with babies, Brad played basketball and soccer with the boys, and I was able to sing a few songs with the director and serve tea and biscuits. After all the refugees left we got together with all the other workers and volunteers and got to talk about how we saw God throughout the day. Hearing the stories of the other people, who could actually speak their language, was amazing, hearing some of their stories and how they were able to connect with them was very interesting to hear. There were few refugees who could speak a little English but it was mainly, “bathroom” and “hold my baby.” 

Saturday was our first tourist day, and honestly for the first few hours I was just in shock. 26,000 steps, and 13.5 miles later we saw around 10 different places. I have seen several of these places in books and read about them in Greek Mythology (which I love), and it was crazy to see it all in person and be able to actually see all the details. Just a few of the places we went were;

the Panathenic Stadium 

Acropolis and Slopes

Ancient Agora

Mars Hill 

A restored Stoa of Attalus 

Seeing the place where Acts 17 happened was a lot to take in. Mars Hill also gave you an amazing view of the city, but to top that was Acropolis, and to top this the view from Philopappu Monument was the best. We were able to actually see the ocean from here and several miles of Athens, and we were able to get a look at the entire Acropolis monument. Although we saw so many things we are excited to see even more in the next few weeks.

This is just the beginning to a whole new experience, and if it just gets better from here we are in for an amazing adventure, severing God, fellowshipping with others and all together building the Kingdom of God. 

Until next time,

Sarah Easterwood