Category Archives: Lumos Project

Adventures and Celebrations

Hola friends and family!

I hope you all had a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be grateful for, and I hope you were able to reflect on this while feasting on delicious foods and spending time with your loved ones. Thanksgiving was very different for me this year, but I’m thankful that I was still able to eat some turkey and mashed potatoes! As always, the past two weeks have been packed full of activities and adventures, especially with preparing for Thanksgiving at Casa Gloria.

Fall is one of my favorite times of year, and being in the tropics, I have missed watching the leaves change, wearing sweaters, and eating my mom’s delicious soups. So being away from home during Thanksgiving this year was also difficult. I really missed being able to cook my favorite foods and spend time with my family playing games and watching football. That being said, celebrating Thanksgiving with Casa Gloria was still a wholesome and exciting experience! We needed to prepare food for almost 50 people, so all of the staff took a recipe and started cooking the day before. In the end, we had quite the feast (picture #1)! Because Thanksgiving is not a holiday traditional to Guatemala, Jenna had me explain to the kids how we celebrate Thanksgiving in the States and why it’s important to remember to be grateful for what we have. After, all of the children and staff took a moment to say something that we were thankful for. This was a precious moment, especially listening to what the little kids came up with! I am extremely appreciative to Jenna and her family, the Casa Gloria family, and my host family for welcoming me with open arms into their lives and families. My experience with Casa Gloria has been so positive thanks to all of these wonderful people!

Besides Thanksgiving, my internship continues to provide new experiences and opportunities to learn. For example, I took a girl to the eye doctor and, let’s just say, I learned a lot of new vocabulary! In the past two weeks I’ve also helped out by driving people around to complete errands including castrating dogs, buying groceries for the children’s home, and picking up flooring. The other day, I even weighed out medicine for a few of the dogs! Like I’ve said before, there truly is never a dull moment! On a more somber note, Casa Gloria recently received two sisters who witnessed their father kill their mother. When I first heard the details of their situation, I was heartbroken. Unfortunately, these things happen regularly and is the reason why Casa Gloria exists. Thankfully, the girls are adjusting really well to living at the children’s home, but any thoughts and prayers for them, as well as the other children, are always welcomed and appreciated!

In the last two weeks, I also returned to Antigua for a few days and traveled to Panajachel, a town located on Lake Atitlan. While in Antigua, I spent time with my host family and friends, climbed Volcan Pacaya (picture #2), and witnessed the gorgeous arrangements of the Flower Festival (picture #3)! While visiting the towns around Lake Atitlan, I took in gorgeous views (pictures #4, #5, and #6), learned about the process of roasting coffee beans (picture #7), and attempted (not very successfully) to do traditional Mayan weaving (picture #8). I also did a tour of San Pedro on horseback (pictures #9 and #10)!

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la pr贸xima,

Jenna

P.S. I included a picture of my host sister, Michelle, and I because her smile brings me so much joy and she’s just adorable! Hopefully you’ll be able to receive some of that joy through the photo 馃檪

Settling into Life in Santa Cruz

Hola friends and family!

It’s hard to believe that another two weeks has already passed by. My time with Casa Gloria is going so quickly, and I want to soak up every experience that I can! Each week brings new opportunities for me to learn and to grow closer with the staff and kids at Casa Gloria, as well as with my host family. I’m so thankful for them all!

In my last blog, I mentioned that the founder of Casa Gloria’s name is also Jenna. As you might imagine, having two Jenna’s around could cause some confusion, so the two of us had decided before I arrived that I would go by a different name while I was here. I told Jenna that some of my friends call me Jordy (a combination of my first and last names) and she thought that was the perfect solution. Well, upon arrival in Santa Cruz, my host family had a hard time pronouncing “Jordy,” and also promptly told me that it was a boy’s name. This was confirmed when someone told me they were looking for “Se帽or Jordy,” to which they were shocked and slightly embarrassed when I told them that I was, in fact, the Jordy they were looking for. Anyway, the result is that, to anyone in Casa Gloria, I am Jordy and, to anyone from my host family, I am Nicole (my middle name). That being said, whenever I meet someone new, I never know how to introduce myself because, so far, I’ve gone by three different names (Jenna, Jordy, and Nicole) in the six weeks that I’ve spent in Guatemala!

One thing that I love about my host family, is that we all are genuinely curious and interested in learning about our respective cultures, especially my host mom, Vilma, and me. I cannot tell you how many times she has graciously taken the time to explain to me when I do or say something that is a little culturally “off,” and then to ask me how I would handle the same situation if I was at home. It’s so wonderful to know that we are both able to learn from each other! For example, at the beginning of last week, I was having a conversation with Vilma about cooking and she mentioned that she almost never uses her oven, but that she wanted to learn how to make a few things in it. Naturally, I offered to teach her how to make cookies. She readily agreed, and this resulted in me, my host sister, Sulmi, and Vilma all making a batch of Joanna Gaines’ chocolate chip cookies together (picture #1)! We had so much fun, especially when the cookies were ready to eat! As far as other things go related to my host family, I’m happy to report that I’ve learned a few more Spanish songs, so now I don’t have to keep repeating the same two over and over again. At this rate, I’m going to have a whole repertoire prepared by the time I leave!

In the past two weeks, I also traveled to both Tikal and Semuc Champey. In Tikal (pictures #2, #3, and #4), I learned about Mayan history, climbed temples and pyramids, and even saw a tarantula! It was a powerful experience to witness a way of life that, now, is completely non-existent. Jenna, Evelia (Casa Gloria’s psychologist), and I also had a great time getting to know each other better during the 18 total hours of driving that we did on that trip. Let’s just say, it got to the point where we were taking personality tests, so we DEFINITELY know each other well now! At Semuc Champey (pictures #5 and #6), Mayda (Vilma’s younger sister) and I swam in the gorgeous, crystal-blue waters and dove into an underwater cave. We were even able to tour one of the Lanquin Caves (picture #7) and see where some Mayan sacrifices took place!

My internship at Casa Gloria has also been quite eventful over the past two weeks. I’ve continued working on my normal projects like finishing the Christmas cards, taking dogs to the vet, and teaching English classes, but I’ve also taken kids to doctor appointments, weighed babies, and celebrated D铆a de los Muertos. There is truly never a dull moment around here! I have come to really enjoy teaching the English classes because the kids are always so enthusiastic and eager to learn the material I give them. It can be challenging due to the differing levels of education and English knowledge that the kids have, but overall, those classes are some of the most fun I have throughout the week! This past week, I also had the opportunity to share a little bit of my story with Casa Gloria’s kids, as well as the reason why I chose to work with Casa Gloria in the first place. I shared how they had already deeply impacted me in the few short weeks that I’d been here and how grateful I was to be here with them. These kids have experienced some of the most cruel and disgusting forms of human behavior to exist, and the way they’ve picked themselves up and support each other is so inspiring. This was a really powerful and beautiful moment for me and one that I will cherish forever.

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la pr贸xima,

Jenna

The Next Chapter

*The names of the children from Casa Gloria have been changed.*

Hola friends and family!

In the past two weeks, I’ve experienced both the sadness of departures and the excitement of new beginnings. I said bittersweet goodbyes to my loving host family and wonderful friends in Antigua (pictures #1 and #2). I could not have made it through my time in Antigua without these people – they truly made my experience so special!

Although it was hard to say goodbye, I was also eager to start my next adventure with Casa Gloria! As a reminder, Casa Gloria is both a children’s home and a dog ministry (picture #3) that is located in Santa Cruz, Guatemala, about a six-hour drive from Antigua. The trip to Casa Gloria was long, but not uneventful. At the time, Casa Gloria had a 7-year-old boy, John, and his nanny who were staying at the heart hospital in Guatemala City so that John could recover from his surgery. My host dad was kind enough to drive me to the hospital to pick them up and then drive the three of us to the north side of Guatemala city where we met Jenna, the founder of Casa Gloria. (Fun fact, Jenna鈥檚 maiden name was Jenna York鈥inda crazy right?) We still had a four-hour drive, so we didn鈥檛 end up making it to Santa Cruz until about 2am. Although it was the middle of the night, my new host mom graciously brought me into her home and made sure I was comfortable. I truly have been blessed with the best host families!

Over the next few days, I played at least a hundred games of Uno with my host siblings, began learning the names of all of the kids, nannies, workers, and dogs at Casa Gloria (pictures #4 and #5), and attempted, only somewhat successfully, to tortear (make tortillas). Thankfully, everyone has been very gracious and kind with me when I forget names and mess up tortillas!

I’ve come to discover that there is never a dull moment at Casa Gloria. Each day is filled with surprises, love, adventure, and opportunities to learn and grow. During my internship hours, I’ve helped the kids with their homework, tasted green lemons – no, they are apparently NOT limes (picture #6), taught English classes, received Spanish lessons, taken dogs to their chemotherapy appointments (picture #7), and began creating Christmas cards for all of Casa Gloria’s sponsors. I even participated in Ally’s quincea帽era (picture #8)!

Outside of my internship, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my host family. My host mom has eight siblings and most of them live nearby in the same neighborhood. Every night, a new aunt, uncle, or cousin meanders into the house to eat dinner with us or just to hang out and conversate. Their family reminds me a lot of my own, and so, in some ways, this helps me not miss my family so much, and in others, makes me miss them more. That being said, my host family has truly embraced me and made me feel extremely welcomed and loved!

Before I traveled to Guatemala, I tried to eliminate any expectations I had so that I could simply experience things as they happened. A few things that I can safely say I was NOT expecting, however, are the incredibly large amounts of delicious food that my host mom puts in front of me at every meal, the fact that I鈥檇 quickly have to get over my fear of cockroaches, and that I would get asked to play my guitar and sing the same, two Spanish songs (the only ones that I know) on a daily basis. Nevertheless, each day here is a gift and I would not change any of it!

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers!

Much love y hasta la pr贸xima,

Jenna

These are dogs currently up for adoption!

Going to church with Jenna and the kids for the first time!

Me with Jenna’s youngest daughter, Ariana!

Me and Randall on the way home from his chemotherapy appointment <3

The Sky is the Limit

Hola again!

It has now been two weeks since I’ve arrived in Antigua and what an adventure it has been! As soon as I stepped off of the plane in Guatemala City, it was a mad rush to retrieve my luggage and make it through Customs. Thankfully, M谩ximo Nivel, the Spanish language school, had arranged for a driver to pick me up at the airport, so the trip to my host family’s house in Antigua was very smooth. I arrived at the house around midnight where I was greeted by my host family with open arms. They have been incredibly kind and welcoming and I could not have asked for a better family to stay with!

Every morning, I wake up to a warm cup of coffee and a delicious breakfast typically consisting of eggs, beans, and fruit that my host mom prepares for me. I then head to my Spanish classes from 9am to 1pm where I try to soak up as much knowledge as I possibly can. For the first four to five days, my head was swimming with new information, vocabulary, and grammar, but I have slowly begun to acclimate to living life in Spanish. After my classes, I walk around Antigua until I find a caf茅 where I can eat lunch. This is my favorite part of the day because it allows me to explore Antigua and try new foods like this Chocobanano (picture #1)! In the afternoons, my host siblings and I study together at the kitchen table. They help me improve my Spanish grammar and I help them increase their English vocabulary. It’s the perfect set up! In the evenings, I eat another delicious meal with my host family and then spend the rest of the night conversing about the day. My Spanish speaking abilities have improved significantly because of this!

By the first weekend, I’d acclimated to daily life in Antigua. I’d made some friends from M谩ximo Nivel and I’d mostly adjusted to the language switch. My friends and I also started to explore Antigua more and experience all that the city has to offer. I love how vibrant this city is and how kind the people are. I have truly enjoyed immersing myself in Guatemalan culture by trying new foods and striking conversations with the locals! Over the past two weeks I’ve walked along most of the streets in Antigua (picture #2), attended the first Communion of my host brother, explored the ruins of the San Francisco Convent and Church (picture #3), and even visited the Antigua soccer stadium (picture #4)! I will never forget my visit to the stadium because I was able to meet many of the players, get my jersey signed (picture #5), and observe the team practice. Hopefully, I will even be able to make it to a game before I leave!

There are four volcanoes near Antigua: Agua, Fuego, Pacaya, and Acatenango (Agua is the volcano you see in pictures 2-4!). I have always loved hiking and backpacking, so I knew immediately that I wanted to hike at least one of the volcanoes. Luckily, a few of my new friends wanted to do the same! Acatenango is the most popular volcano to summit, so we signed up for a guided, overnight trek. Acatenango stands tall at 4,000 meters (a little over 13,000 feet) and we climbed the vast majority of that the first day. The altitude gain was intense and it was extremely cold at the top, so the hike provided plenty of challenges, both mental and physical. That being said, I am so glad that I did it, and to quote our guide, “the sky is the limit!” The views from the top of Acatenango were breathtaking, I really bonded with the friends who were with me (picture #6), and I was even able to see Fuego erupt (picture #7)!

Although my time in Antigua is coming to a close, I am incredibly thankful for the irreplaceable friendships and experiences that I have gained here. Next on the agenda: move to Cob谩n and begin working with Misi贸n Vida Nueva – I can’t wait!

Thank you, again, for your continued thoughts and prayers. It is extremely comforting knowing that I have so many people supporting me throughout this journey!

Much love y hasta la pr贸xima vez,

Jenna

A Day I Will Never Forget

Hola family, friends, and fellow trotamundos!

Today is the day I embark on this crazy, beautiful, 7-month adventure! As I write this, I am sitting in the JFK airport waiting for my connecting flight to Guatemala City. Before I head to Misi贸n Vida Nueva in Cob谩n, I will be in Antigua taking Spanish classes for two weeks through a wonderful company called Maximo Nivel. These classes will help me refresh and improve my Spanish speaking skills so that I am well equipped to communicate effectively during my time in Guatemala. I am so excited to get to Antigua and start the program that I can barely sit still enough to write this blog! Especially after the events of the past 12 hours鈥

This past summer I worked at a camp in northern Michigan and did not return home to Nashville until about two weeks ago. In my mind, two weeks was plenty of time to prepare to leave the country for seven months, but looking back, an extra week or two would have been nice. The past two weeks were a whirlwind to say the least! I spent the majority of my time catching up with friends and family, a portion of my time cramming in any necessary appointments, and an embarrassing amount of time meandering around REI. But yesterday, after hours of deliberating, packing, re-packing, and re-packing again, I finally managed to get all of my things organized in my suitcases. I’m traveling to Guatemala during the rainy season, so I basically packed every raincoat and piece of moisture-wicking clothing that I own. Thanks to my love for backpacking, I was not in short supply of these items. My flight in the morning was scheduled to leave at 5:00am, so I went to bed super early, hoping I would be able to get at least a few hours of sleep!

I’m sure I was quite a sight walking into the airport early this morning. I wore all of my heaviest clothing to travel in (bulky hiking pants, heavy sweatshirt, biggest raincoat), so that I could fit more into my suitcases. Plus, I was carrying my backpack chock-full with books and snacks, and, of course, my guitar. By the time I made it from my car to an American Airlines check-in kiosk, I was already sweating. It didn鈥檛 matter though, because I was ecstatic about beginning my journey to Guatemala! Unfortunately, that excitement did not last very long because, due to some issues with getting my luggage checked, I ended up missing my flight. As you might imagine, I was pretty stressed. I had already made arrangements with Maximo Nivel to be picked up at the airport in Guatemala City this afternoon, not to mention I was worried about the expense of changing flights so last minute! The wonderful American Airlines employees, however, wasted no time in finding me another flight at little cost. I am incredibly grateful that I am still able to arrive in Guatemala today, despite the setback of me missing my original flight! Honestly, the worst part about this is that I am sitting in New York for 7 hours and can’t go explore the city. If I had to miss my flight, I cannot think of a better, smoother way for this day to go.

As my first two weeks in Guatemala quickly approach, I am looking forward to exploring historic Antigua, trying new foods, and learning more about Guatemalan culture from my host family. I know I am going to experience and discover so much and I can’t wait to tell you about it soon 馃檪 Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers – they are greatly appreciated!

Much love y hasta la pr贸xima vez,

Jenna

Excited about the Journey Ahead

Hello Blog!

This is my pre-departure post and I cannot be more excited for Egypt! I am currently about 2 weeks away from departure and i’m feeling a lot of things such as excitement, curiosity, and definitely some uncertainty of what to expect. Out of excitement I have made a list of restaurants that I want to visit in the 6 months while in Cairo as well as followed a few instagram accounts that offer advice on how best聽 to integrate better with the locals. My goals for the trip are to walk away with a strong understanding of the Egyptian culture and to truly be a part of their community in a helpful way while abroad. I cannot wait for the challenges and for the growth that I hope will be apparent when looking back at these blogs as well.

In terms of preparation I feel like I have done all I can and yet that I could not possibly be ready, all at once. I’ve been speaking only Arabic at home in order to get used to the language, and every once in a while I realize how truly crazy it is that I will soon be in Africa working with a nonprofit on a volunteer trip that I meticulously planned for months. Its surreal truly and in all honesty a tad overwhelming but nonetheless bound to be an experience I will never forget.

The non-profit organization has been really helpful in communicating that they will teach us what is needed along the way which is a relief because it takes away the stress of trying to figure it all out alone. I also think it’s really great that I’ve had the chance to apply to law school during the few months after graduation before embarking on this journey so that I can be fully committed to this experience for the next 6 months. Finding out decisions while abroad will be interesting and potentially a little lonely at times but having something to focus all my attention on rather than anxiously waiting for decisions to come out every day will be a blessing.

Speaking of blessings, another thing that has given me some comfort is getting to go with Ilaria on this trip as I know we can look out for one another and that it’ll be easier to feel safe and secure with a little part of home always around. I couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity to grow as a person and work within the human rights field before law school, and I am so grateful to Belmont and to Lumos for offering this once in a lifetime opportunity to their students because I don’t think I would have ever had the chance to do this in life if not for them.

Send your prayers that the flight there is safe and painless, and that the layover provides an opportunity to explore london for a few hours before arriving haha.

Until next time blog,

Respectfully,

Nardien Sadik

Cairo, Egypt

 

 

Carrot Hole

Carrot Hole

At the time I began writing this, it had been just one week since my arrival to Cape Town (22 Jan)- here are some of the thoughts that I gathered in that week, and a little more since then:

I can鈥檛 believe I鈥檝e been in Cape Town for a week today! In the past week, I鈥檝e done all of the things- but the greatest so far, was CAMP!

As a previous summer camper, girl scout, and camp leader- when my supervisor asked if I鈥檇 like to meet a group of the children at Lawrence House for the first time by going with them to their yearly camp, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. Meeting new people can be so challenging and I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that I loved camp and no matter where you are in the world, camp. is. camp- or so I thought.

The camp was located about two and a half hours outside of Cape Town and named Camp Wortelgat- which is Afrikaans for Carrot Hole. Even now, I still do not know the significance of the name of the camp- it never was properly explained鈥

Our adventure began with, as previously mentioned, a bus ride to the camp itself which lasted just under three hours. On this ride, the children of the home asked me questions of all varieties- however most of them consisted of something that had some relation to America and life in the United States. On this ride, I learned a lot about them as well- I began to learn names, recognize faces and voices, identify children that had closer bonds with one another. I learned that they loved music, dancing, and most prominently- TikTok. On this ride, I was able to see beautiful landscapes- hills, valleys, mountains, bodies of water- and the outside-looking-in view of Cape Town- shacks, poverty, townships, wealth, hotels, large buildings and industries. From a distance, I could see the tangible evidence of disparities and wealth gaps.

The view from the outside of our thatch huts!

The children’s “Tree of Life” exercise. They drew these themselves to represent different aspects of their lives.

Upon arrival to camp- we immediately began our excursions. The camp program facilitators led us to our thatch huts where we were able to place our belongings and sleeping bags. Following this were the classic name games and ice breakers, and ate the most delicious camp food I鈥檝e ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Then came the kayaking. From there our few days transformed into a rhythm of action, team building exercises, processing in groups, and rest and camaraderie (featuring ghost stories, card games, and spooking). Our camp was snuggly nestled between the foot of mountains and a beautiful body of water. At night, we could step out of our huts and gaze at stars in ways that I鈥檇 never seen before.

Our path while hiking, all blue skies! Summer in South Africa!

On the last day, our group went for a hike that truly felt as if we were the only people for miles (because we probably were). And by mid-day, we began packing our belongings back into the bus with full stomachs and hearts. We finished loading and left the same way we came in- by bus ride through landscapes that looked like they should be puzzles and not real places. By the bus ride back, I felt like the beginnings of attachment had started forming, and I knew this because I felt comfortable enough to fall asleep on the ride back. By the bus ride back, I had learned twelve children鈥檚 names and the beginning of their incredible, hard, inspiring stories and witnessed resilience, wit, humor, teamwork, and compassion. By the bus ride back, I had a revived sense of excitement for Monday, which would be my first day at Lawrence House!

At the end of every day at camp, the children and staff would write a word or sentence to describe their day. On the last day we all took pictures in front of the wall and they wanted to take my picture!

In your corner,

Liv

*For privacy purposes, I am unable to post pictures that contain beneficiaries of Lawrence House. Enjoy the beautiful landscapes!*

Introducing Me

In the midst of a rapidly evolving world, fast paced with little room for empathy and grace if left behind, it has felt increasingly overwhelming to keep up with the conversations of our nation to say the least. In the midst of the world we find ourselves in, the hard and necessary conversations our nation is beginning to hold, rising political tension, a global pandemic- and one that has been politically manipulated at that, life has felt disheartening, heavy, and kind of a grey-blue of sorts.

The question we should be asking ourselves is not 鈥淭o wear or not wear a mask鈥 (because the answer is always wear the mask), rather, more than ever I think the question we should be asking ourselves is what did we do to actively contribute to the bettering of our environment? Whether that be our neighborhood, our community, our gym, our nation, our local park or community nature trail, we are- more so than ever, amidst our social locations, given a newfound infinite amount of opportunity to act with kindness, grace, and empathy.

I say this because as a Lumos traveler, I want my travel to have purpose and meaning. I want to reflect back and remember times that I was kind, that I was patient, that I actively listened more than I spoke, that I remained always (to the best of my ability) in a posture of curiosity and humility as I engaged with the new piece of the world around me.

I say this, because amidst a disheartening, heavy, and kind of grey-blue of sorts world, I believe we are not only given an opportunity, but obligated to seek out something- moments, conversations, random acts of kindness that are a sort of yellow-like shade. I am already deeply indebted to the opportunities that the Lumos Travel Grant has provided me thus far, and as a Lumos Traveler, I will do everything in my power to act out of a posture of curiosity and humility, to listen well, seek justice in the systems I work for, and continue to practice advocacy and allyship.聽

My name is Liv and I will be departing to Cape Town, South Africa in two weeks to work in a township. In this township resides a group facility for immigrant and refugee children called Lawrence House. At this moment, I am in Florida visiting family for the holidays and I鈥檝e just turned twenty-three. At this moment, you can find me sitting at the counter with a cold cup of coffee a little past noon, listening to Jeremy Loops, a (to my understanding) quite popular South African musician, trying to preemptively write my Lumos experience, processing as I go.聽

If you were here, in this moment with me, you鈥檇 see me sitting at my Nana鈥檚 counter, writing these words while listening to her sing Christmas songs two days after Christmas has passed, offering her words of wisdom and wishes for the future of the world. If I were to write about them, I鈥檇 call the collection 鈥淟essons from my Nana鈥檚 Kitchen Counter.鈥 As we exit the Advent and Christmas season and transition into the new year, I hope we take with us a continued desire and longing for goodness, and the hopeful anticipation of its arrival. For now, I will leave you with words from Scott Erickson, who I鈥檝e come to familiarize myself with as 鈥淪cott the Painter鈥. He says:

I can help.

I can be helped.

 

I can carry.

I can be carried.

 

I can move.

I can be moved.

 

I can repair.

I can be repaired.聽

May we recite these words to remember that we can be the giver of goodness and that also, especially in the midst of the world we find ourselves in now, it is more than okay to need, ask for, and receive goodness.聽

These words are paired with an original image of Scott鈥檚 as pictured below of a tow truck helping another.

The post referenced, along with more of Scott鈥檚 wise words and beautifully captivating artwork can be found here.聽聽

In your corner,

Liv

 

Tiny Wurm, Big World

Welcome to my very first blog!

I am slowly learning how to put the stories, ideas, and thoughts I encounter into words for you to not only read, but to experience for yourself. I am honored that you are willing to take a moment of your own life to read about mine through a smudged laptop screen, big, ol鈥 desktop, or whatever your viewing screen of choice happens to be.聽

Well, I am moving to India.

Who would鈥檝e thought?聽Not my parents.

Well, perhaps... I assume they knew that this was coming before I broke the news to them, but to you all this move overseas may raise some questions. Allow me to share where this all began.聽

I initially felt a tug on my heart to visit India about 2 years ago.聽

May of 2017 to be exact.聽

As most dreams do, it began as a small seed in the back of my mind. I slowly began to water the thought of India with books and conversations and prayers and movies and anything else within my reach, and before I knew it, I had a full grown tree of thought taking root in not only my mind, but also in my heart.聽

The obsession with this place spilled over into a deep love for the culture and people of India.聽

I visited twice in early 2018, and shortly after my trips, I felt a new small seed being planted in my head to move there.聽

Taken during my second visit to India. A moment where I felt tiny, tiny, tiny.

Fast forward a year and here we are!聽

After many early morning interviews, long-distance phone call meetings, financial confusions and a few teary-eyed (okay ugly weeping) kitchen breakdowns, I can finally recognize the purpose interwoven in all the moments that led me to right here.

You will hear so much more about this in the coming months, but in just a few short weeks I begin a communications internship with International Justice Mission on the west coast of India.

In somewhat of a short (okay medium to long) version, IJM is a non-profit organization composed of Christian attorneys, social workers, criminal investigators, and support staff. IJM carefully investigates situations of abuse and partners with local officials to free victims from their immediate situations of

danger. After the victims have been freed, IJM seeks to address the root of the problem by prosecuting the perpetrators in local court systems and empowering communities to make structural changes that can prevent such abuses in the future. IJM also works with aftercare providers to help the newly freed victims adjust to a life that is very different from their past oppressive experiences.聽

Check out their website for more information (www.ijm.org).聽

In early June, I flew to DC for a pre-departure orientation with 79 other IJM interns.

IJM鈥檚 headquarters sit on the outskirts of the surprisingly sweet DC area, and the 5 days spent within the walls of the organization, shaking hands of those whom I’d only met over email, praying alongside current employees, filling notepads with the kind of information that sets your soul on fire...those 5 days represent just a small seed of what this year has the potential of growing into. I sat wide-eyed in front of each speaker as they shared about their specific area of expertise within the organization from technology to fundraising, and from cultural immersion to international team building. I learned more about the heart of IJM, absorbed the stories that the organization is founded on, and held back tears as I heard about all that the IJM team plans to accomplish in the years to come.聽

The best part is that IJM鈥檚 story, team, and mission exceed me.聽

This year will break far beyond the walls of my own mind, as I hope to share with you, and anyone who is willing to listen, the stories of rescue and victory and renewal.

I used to say the phrase, 鈥渢iny wurm, big world,鈥 whenever I saw something or visited somewhere that made me feel small in the best possible way.聽

Looking out at the mountain, the ocean, the waterfall, or the sunset, and being filled with some sort of 鈥榯his is what life is about鈥 feeling. The tears forming in the corner of your eyes and your heart lifting as though it had just exhaled for the first time in years. The Creator has a way of revealing the most extravagant gifts of the world to us in a way more personal than we could ever describe.

I have a feeling this next year is going to be a lot of those, 鈥渢iny wurm, big world,鈥 moments.聽Perhaps a beautiful sunset or a breathtaking view, or maybe even the feeling I鈥檒l get when I first figure out how to do laundry in India.聽

 

Whatever it is, I look forward to sharing that moment with you.聽

 

a good photo reference for when someone says they have “laundry for days..” Taken on my second trip to India.

 

 

– kate

 

 

 

 

unrelenting joy.

When joy is a habit, love is a reflex.

-Bob Goff

Before coming to Tanzania I thought I knew what the above quote meant. I thought I knew what it meant to exude joy, and thus pour love into those around you. However, after being here for just about a month, I have realized that truthfully, I had no idea what that meant until my time in Arusha.

Africa has shown me unrelenting joy in a way that I never knew possible, and that joy is overwhelmingly followed with a constant love of others. Walking down the street to the dala dala station, I am met with a multitude of high fives, greetings, and kisses blown from strangers. At first, this kind of scared me, as it has been engrained in me that strangers should be met with caution. While I do still believe this, as I am still a foreigner here and I need to be cautious, the vast majority of these people only want to be met with kindness, and they expect nothing else in return. This is because, despite the hardships that they face on a day to day basis, they meet all those that they come in contact with joy, appreciation, and love.

Even more so than those I meet on my daily adventures around town, my students exude joy in a way that I admire and honestly, envy a little bit. Being able to come to school, receive lunch, and spend time with friends is something that I absolutley took for granted when I was younger, yet these sweet children see school as the greatest thing in the world and come in every single day excited to learn and grow. They meet me with a level of joy every single day that I cannot quite describe. From the way that they excitedly shout every time an airplane passes over the school, to the way they are so eager to share their newfound academic abilities, these sweet kids exude joy in an incredible way.聽 It is a kind of joy that I feel so lucky to be a part of, a kind of joy that shows you what is important in life.

These people, and more specifically, these children, are content without the materialistic lifestyle that we as a society keep feeding into, absentmindedly hoping that maybe one day acquiring the right car, house, or newest iPhone will suddenly make us feel whole. People here don’t seem to care about any of that. They want to spend time with one another. They want to eat in community with others, dance freely, and in doing this, they have shown me that these are the things that matter. Things will not bring us joy, people and experiences will.

Now that this lesson has been so deeply ingrained in those I am honored to live in community with, they can spend their time pouring out love onto the people around them, because at the end of the day, what greater gift can you give another person that your love? The people that I have been able to learn from here have truly made joy a habitual action in their lives, and, in turn, they spread love like they are made of it.

Song of the Week:Seasons聽by Grayson Chance