ETA

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We should be rolling into Woodlands just after 730pm.  We stopped to eat in Beloit and now the limo is tearing up the pavement!

Bags in hand

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We've got all our bags which is pretty crazy...miracle of biblical proportions pretty much. Waiting for the Woodlands limo...traffics bad! It's gonna be a fight to get home from beginning till end. Won't be 6pm...we'll keep you posted.

Touchdown in Chicago

Good to be back in the Midwest. Now to try and find our bags. We'll keep u updated on arrival time. Hoping for 6ish.

Miami to Chicago...take 2

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Sitting at the gate waiting to board. Feels like we've done this before. Yesterday was a great day of relaxing and hanging out as a team. The hotel had a couple of grills so we ended up having a huge bbq last night with shrimp, swordfish, steak and flounder. It was a real bummer! 

The only real snag today should be getting our bags in Chi since they were sent yesterday.  But all things considered...no big deal. See you soon...

Mission Trip...Overtime!

Hey all,

Well, we got another curve ball yesterday in Miami when they cancelled our flight only minutes before we were scheduled to board.  The weather wreaked havoc on the flight schedules and the airport was a madhouse.  At the end of the day we got rescheduled for a Saturday flight leaving at 10:40am and arriving in Chicago at 12:50pm (flight 473).  We got a great hotel with 3 suites for the team, and while this is not at all what we wanted...everyone is really taking it in stride.  The biggest hiccup was that we don't have any of our luggage.  So, off to Walmart we went last night to outfit the team for the next couple days.  I have a whole new respect for that family in the show with all the kids, "19 and counting".  That was a serious Walmart bill! :-)  It appears the best decision we made on this trip was to take out trip insurance!  Off to lunch and then a little pool time.  It's not ideal...but it could be a LOT worse!

Touchdown in Miami

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Just landed...we'll keep u posted for an eta as we check flights for delays.

Last day of ministry...

Today was just another in a series of LONG DAYS.  This morning we finished painting the park and had a chance to break into different groups and work our way through the neighborhood praying for homes/families.  It was an awesome experience to stop in front of homes to pray for complete strangers; asking God to draw them to Himself. This activity was so much more than a way to kill some time before lunch...it become something that affected many of us deeply. (James 5:16)

This afternoon we went "up the Hill".  The Hill is the next settlement that is being developed on a hill overlooking Condevilla. When I first went up the Hill 4 years ago there were little more than 50 houses (perhaps better described as shacks).  It was incredible to think that people/families lived in these conditions.  Every year the homes are improved and when we crested the hill I couldn't believe how things had progressed.  There were legitimate homes perched on some of the steepest terrain you can imagine.  I simply can't imagine hauling the bricks, sand and mortar up the trail to make these homes.  Along with the well established homes are also the newer homes that were nothing more than scrap wood nailed together to form a semblance of a wall.  We split up and began distributing vitamins and dental kits. To say it was a humbling experience is the understatement of the trip!  It was, as always, one of our highlights from the Peru experience.

Tonight we had a combined concert with a team from the church (Esperanza Viva).  The concert was held in the newly cleaned park and our team played 5 songs.  We were just the opening band for the main attraction though, the Condevilla team played a bunch of songs after we got done and they did a great job.  There was also an AMAZING skit put on by a combo Condevilla/Woodlands team...it was awesome!

Tomorrow is our day to be tourists and see some of the historical sites around Lima. Of course no trip would be complete without a stop at the Indian Market for all our loved ones...so let's hope we remember everyone's jersey size! :-)

[slideshow]

Let me introduce you to "Flexinity"

I feel as if we need to create a new word that takes all the "flexibility" means and adds about 10 new dimensions to it! Let's call this word "flexinity" (flexible to infinity) I could fill the pages of a book with the things that have gone "wrong" on this trip...but that wouldn't be quite right since God has been in control the whole time.  Just to give you a glimpse of how crazy our trip has been, today we endured the Monsoon of 2011.  Lima gets about 1" of rain a year...so what are the chances we would see rain on this trip...yeah, pretty much a slam dunk! It doesn't rain here like we think of rain back home, but it is a steady mist that falls.  At first it doesn't feel that bad, but after a couple of hours it's down right wet outside.

[slideshow]

Before the rain came we were able to sand all the playground equipment and get a couple coats of paint on them.  We also got most of the paint on the cement benches in the park before we were "misted" out.  The cool part of today was the communities response to the most menial of tasks...trash pick up.  I have seen it before, but it never ceases to amaze me at how such a simple (albiet disgusting) task can affect the community.  We spent about an hour picking up trash from the park near the church, and trust me it was some wicked stuff.  But as we neared the end of our trash duty the park began to fill with many elderly men.  One of them brought us Inka Cola and a water as a way to say thank you.  They were so touched that would be do something so humbling as pick up garbage that they were overwhelmed.  It reminds me of a humbling thing Jesus did in John 13 (check it out).  Jim Panaggio had a great talk with them, actually with many people from the community who were deeply touched by our work today.  Praise God for trash!

Unfortunately the mist postponed our plans to go up the hill today...but we'll get it done tomorrow.  We have a long one tomorrow with tons of stuff going on...but the finish line is in sight.  The team got our letters from home tonight and it gave everyone a needed boost to finish strong.

The power of Snack Time

Sorry that we didn't post yesterday...but it was a marathon day ending with the team finally getting to the hotel about 12:45am. The day started with the ADIEL worship service.  Once a year all the Evangelical Free Churches in Lima get together for a combined worship service and we just happened to be here for it.  We sat in the service for about half of it, and then when the kids were released for Childrens Church we bailed out with them and helped in Childrens church.  We did some songs, skits, crafts and of course the all important snack!  Trust me...the importance of "snack time" transcends culture!  Church was fun as it gave many of us a chance to see old freinds for the first time that didn't get to go to Chincha with us.

After church it was off to lunch, then straight to Condevilla for Children's Carnival #2.  By this point everyone was pretty much a pro at their games and we were up and running in no time.  The crowd was big...real big.  The church had been promoting it all week so it was fun to pull up and see people waiting in the park.  I don't even want to think of the sheer pounds of candy, stickers, spinning tops, bracelets, etc we've given away over the last 3 days.  Let's just say we have plenty of space for souvenirs on the way home. :-)  For me the best part of the Children's Carnival was the fact that the church put the word out on the street that their was going to be a big deal for the community...and we helped pull it off.  Every time the church makes a promise and they keep it, their "stock" in the community goes up.  I remember the very first carnival we put it and how leery the community was...but no longer!  This truly speaks to the integrity the church has conducted itself with over the past 6 years, and in our very small way it was a blessing to deepen that relationship.

Last night was a chance for the team to just have fun...serving is fun...but so is the Water Fountain Park! We bused over to the Fountain Park last night and spent a couple hours out there.  Everyone had a blast!  The team had a rediculously good time playing in the Labyrinth Fountain, and the Peruvians had a good time watching us running around in the middle of Peruvian winter getting soaked.  The Peruvians were attempting to get through the labyrinth without getting wet with their winter coats on...but not us...we had our shorts and t-shirts.  The dichotomy was hilarious!

Today is "get your hands dirty" day.  We will be spending half the day cleaning/painting/repairing the park next to the church, and the other half of the day going up the "hill" to hand out vitamins and dental kits.  It should be a great day.

Hello Lima!

As you can tell from the time stamp on this post (12:51am) it was a LONG day...but it seems that "short days" are in short supply on this trip.  We made it into Lima a little after 11pm tonight and the team is doing wonderful.  Today was a really fun day!  The Childrens Carnival went WAY better than we expected.  Probably somewhere around 125 kids came and played their hearts out for candy, stickers, pencils, etc. I think it would have made the AWANA Carnival crew smile! One cool story from the Carnival was that Jim had a chance to share Christ with one of the guys who came to observe what was going on.  The Peruvian gentleman was highly complementary of what we were doing and thought the community of Chincha needed more of this sort of thing. In the end Jim was able to share why we were down here, as well as that Christ is the real answer for the lives of those in Chincha, not economic development or improved roads.

I know this will shock you...but we ran into problems with our lunch plans and had to call an audible at a different restaurant.  It ended up being a great time, albiet putting us behind schedule by almost 2 hours.  But hey, nobody in Peru really cares much about that anyway!  We all were sitting in this little restaurant, totally packed out with the team of Woodlands and Esperanza Viva and we had the thought, "this family just made enough to live for a week because we ate here."  Our lunch was very good, but the tangible way we helped a Chincha family made the meal all that much better.

So, I know you were wondering how the big soccer game...I'm proud to say the gringo's held their own.  In fact they even won the first game.  Gringo's - Gringo's - Gringo's!  Don't tell anyone...but we drafted Gabriel (one of our translators) and he was pretty much THE MAN!

The worship service tonight was sweet.  Jim Panaggio spoke, and in my extensive knowledge of the Spanish language (that would be "pocoito") he did a great job.  It's always fun to worship in a foreign language, and our kids sang it out.

Time to grab a lil' shut-eye.  [slideshow]

Time is flying...

This was NOT the winning Marshmallow Tower!

Today is our last day in Chincha...what happened to the front end of our trip? The team is packing up their suitcases once again as we prepare to head for Lima tonight.  But before head north, we have a full day of ministry ahead of us.  Today is the much anticipated Childrens Carnival...always a hit and always a blessing.  Their is something so tangible about the joy that is created by that event.  After we fill the kids full of sugar from Carnival prizes we'll take them on in the field of battle (aka...the Soccer field).  Well, you can probably guess how that's going to go...but we'll chalk it up to our 4th place mentality! :-)

The church has moved their Sunday service to tonight so that we can worship with them...we are all looking very forward to that as their is something so sweet about worshiping in another language.  It's at times like that we begin to see the "bigness" of God's Kingdom and we are truly humbled.  After the service we load the bus and drive 3 hours back to Lima.

As an editorial for all you parents...your kids are amazing!  Each and every student has been "all in" this trip, and the unity this team is experiencing is simply sweet.  Please continue to lift us up in prayer as we know that what we're doing is so much bigger than us.

A few pics for you Blog-hounds out there...

A bunch of students updated the blog tonight...but here are some pics from our final day of ESL and the concert.  Much love to the Erickson clan! [slideshow][gallery]

Bienvenidos de Chincha, Peru!

Hola!

First of all, I would just like to say that I love and miss my wonderful parents. And mom, thank you in advance for reading this out loud for dad! :)  Fast forward through the longest trip of my life and into our daily adventures here in Chincha. I knew what was in store for the team and what to expect from the first bus ride into Chincha. It's one thing to hear about the poverty and conditions of Peru, but it's completely another thing to witness it for yourself. Yesterday we had the pleasure to walk door to door and pass out vitamins and tooth brushes to the citizens. I've never seen children so excited to receive tooth brushes and vitamins. This ties into what I feel God has been teaching me so far on this trip. People that have so little, are also some of the happiest people that I have ever met. Children that don't have anything, can still have the biggest and best smiles. Yet my mom tells me to take my vitamins every morning, and that means nothing to me. I have my ipod, cell phone, and so many other things, and I am not always thankful for the stuff I have. There is so much more to say and still so much more to do. This trip has been so much fun, and I'm really looking forward to the next couple of days! I'll let Heath get some sleep now, God knows that he needs it! :)  Thank you for continuing to pray for our group, the trip couldn't be going any better!

- Aaron Koerten

Pensamientos de Brock

Hola mis amigos y mi familia! Estoy bien en la tierra bonita de Chincha, Peru. Estoy escribiendo mi blog en español, entoneces, usen sus traducciones en la red, por favor! :)

Just kidding, I'll write my blog in engles, no worries. The Peru team here is doing fantastic. God is working in each and every one of us in an incredible way. Being in Chincha, a very poor area in Peru, has opened my eyes tremendously to the blessings we have in America. I have the privilege to work with children everyday here that have nothing, yet they would still give me the shirt off their back if it was their last one. The people here are incredibly more generous than us, yet have ten times less. The love and the simplicity of life held in Peru is an incredible and beautiful thing.

But now onto my team. Everyone here is working together tremendously. We have truly come together as one team despite any "cliques" or "differences" we might've had previous to this Trip. Seeing God work in all of us in a similar way has brought us together in a way that has bonded us to beyond friends, pero hermano y hermanas, but brothers and sisters.

We also had a wonderful concert today that we put on for the children of the school we were teaching english at. Seeing all the kids faces light up as they danced around to silly songs such as like a lion and no one like you was a fantastic experience.

I'm afraid it's about time for me to head to bed for the evening, but I miss all of you so much, and am definitely having touches of homesickness. Please continue to keep us in your prayers, and I want to thank all of you who have been doing so thus far.

Buenas Noches everyone!
Brock

It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday!!

Hola amigos! I have had such an incredible trip so far. I can't believe how God is working in my life, everyone in the team, the Peruvian children, and our Peruvian friends. We all have so many stories to tell. Being the vegetarian I am, the food is pretty dang good here. There are lots of potatoes and almost every meal contains chicken. There are also lots of dogs every where. Although a lot of them are really really cute...they aren't tame and aren't very friendly. The dogs here are like squirrels in Wisconsin...they are EVERY WHERE!

When we return, be ready for a big change. We all will look at technology and material goods differently. You may not understand why we will act differently, but trust us when we tell you the stories of the Peruvians and how little they have. We have gone into their houses and see how they live and what they have. They have hardly anything, but those who have God truly have everything. Thats why we are here; to show them God's love and help bring them to Christ. If we can give them peace of mind and more comfort in their lives, then we have done our jobs and God's will. Please continue to pray for us!! We miss you all very much and will be home soon!

Mom, Dad, Nathan, Luke & Olivia (and other friends and family) I miss you all very much and I am having an incredible time. I will be home soon and can't wait to see you all and share my stories!!

-Emily

TROTH'S thoughts...

Hola!

To say the least, I am having an INCREDIBLE time in Peru. Our first few days in Chincha have been such a blessing, and I am thankful for every moment we have here. From the smiling children in ESL, to the smiling faces on our team, joy is radiating everywhere. It truly is a blessing to have such an amazing opportunity to travel with Woodlands. It's unbelievable how much I have learned so far and how much I have seen. I am looking forward to the rest of the trip, and for everything God has planned out for us. I am also looking forward to sharing all of the experiences I am having here with all of you when I return. The whole team is. Trust me, we are definitely busy, and we cannot wait to share everything with all of you. So be ready. :)

Side note for the family - I miss you! Tell Cooper I miss him too. These dogs just aren't the same. They kind of scare me.

Adios! -Taylor Roth

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