Detour to the Gulf of Mexico

Day 105, Wednesday, August 7 – After several calls yesterday, we knew we needed to head toward Texas. Jacin talked with two state parks in particular, Martin Dies and Inks Lake, which were ready to have additional help in their parks now. We were told that our background checks could be pushed through as quickly as Friday, so we thought we’d head to Martin Dies (the closer of the two) for the weekend to scope it out and see if it would be a good place to call home for a while. We took our time packing up and eventually headed west. About an hour into our long day, we passed the turn off to Grand Isle, which is a small island off the coast of Louisiana. Jacin absently stated, “This will be our last chance to see the ocean for a while,” and that settled it. We headed south and grabbed a spot in Grand Isle State Park, which is right on the Gulf of Mexico, separated only by a sand levee. While we were still in the humid Louisiana heat, the proximity to the ocean offers a constant breeze which cools things down a bit (aka it blows on the sweat that is constantly flowing from your body, thereby decreasing your body temperature slightly :)). We walked the beach for a while, then stopped at a neighboring camp to see what was in the buckets next to their camper. Lo and behold, they were full of crabs. We must’ve made an impression with our questions and curiosity, because roughly an hour later they invited us over to share in their feast. They schooled us in the art of de-shelling, and we were off! I have no idea how many crabs we ate, but we were stuffed full by the end of it (except for Justice, who couldn’t even stand the smell let alone attempt to put any of it in her mouth, so didn’t even hang around for the great conversation). We learned so much about the Grand Isle area, which is one of their annual vacation spots, as well as New Orleans, which is their home. Some time after dinner, we headed back down to the beach to catch the sunset, but we got down there a bit too late to see it. That didn’t prevent us from enjoying some more time in the water, and we also bumped into our crabbing neighbors, who gave us a quick tour of their crabbing pots, which were already starting to fill up after only a short time in the water.  What a wonderful day!

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Day 106 – Jacin and I got up early to see the sunrise of the Gulf of Mexico, only to get down to the beach and find quite a build up of clouds.  We enjoyed our quiet time together, listening to the waves and watching the sand crabs work on cleaning their homes.  It was quite entertaining, really.  Jacin headed back to camp to work on some apps and I ran a few sprint drills on the beach, finding treasures along the way.  I went back to the RV and grabbed Nation to come along with me.  On the way to the beach, we found our smallest frog yet, smaller than Nation’s pinky nail.  Next we found a large fish spine with the “ribs”, which looked like spikes from a sea monster.  Then we found several beached jellyfish and set one out on a picnic table to see what would happen (we found that all that was left the next day was a little bit of shiny film on the table).  Jacin and Justice joined us shortly, and we took a long walk along the beach, picking up shells as we went and finding several still inhabited by hermit crabs.  We had a late breakfast, then later took our bikes down to the beach.  Justice road along the coast through the incoming waves, then came to a crossing and decided to go for it.  She found out the hard way that it was much deeper than it looked, and ended up waist-deep in the water.  She was quite surprised, but pushed through it and came out laughing.  Later, after changing into dry clothes, we took the kids into town and checked out a souvenir shop, as well as taking a self-guided tour of the historic houses in the town, all of which were built in the mid- to late-1800s.  The island was settled by pirates, and most of the people living there can trace their roots back to a pillaging past.  We also explored a local cemetery, with the above-ground tombs, and marveled at the houses on stilts – even the school was built up off the ground!  After dinner, Justice was experiencing major discomfort, so I worked on her a bit then sent her to bed with a heating pad.  We all prayed over her complete recovery.

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Day 107, Friday, August 9 – Jacin and I were up early again to attempt to see the sunrise, but were met by another cloudy morning.  So, we again just took in the sights and enjoyed some alone time together.  Once back at the RV, Jacin cleaned himself up and headed into town to find work.  We have all fallen in love with Grand Isle, and it is the first place that feels like home.  Justice headed out for a walk on the beach while I worked a bit, and Nation and I joined her later.  We met Jacin back at the RV, and he informed us that he had spoken with a local construction company that could offer him work, as well as had found an RV park that would let us stay for free in exchange for some handyman help.  We were all very excited!  So, Justice and I headed to the showers to get ready to check out the RV park and make the move.  When we got back, Jacin was on the phone, and we could tell our plans were quickly changing.  When he hung up, he said, “Well, I got the call.”  THE call, the one he has been waiting for since last October, finally came when we were ready to settle down for a while.  God works in mysterious ways.  We decided to celebrate with a meal out, and found a quaint little diner called The Starfish, where Jacin and I were treated to a seafood-stuffed baked potato, Nation had a shrimp patty, and Justice had the best hamburger ever.  After lunch, we decided that rather than head to Dalls right away, since we didn’t need to be there for almost a week, we would enjoy a couple more nights in paradise.  But, we had to switch campsites because our spot was reserved for the weekend.  We found our new neighbors to be just as incredible as the last ones.  We took a quick ride along the beach, and got fairly wet from a quick rainstorm.  When we returned, Bob and his brother John (our neighbors) got their shrimp out that purchased from a dock in town and showed us how to prepare them for cooking.  They cooked up red fish and shrimp, and we supplied the veggies, and we all shared a meal and stories together.  We even enjoyed a treat off an ice cream truck that came through the campground right after dinner.  It was another great day.  Thank you, Lord!

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Day 108 – Jacin woke me around 5:30 to see if I was up to heading down to the beach again.  I just couldn’t do it, and it was not too hard to convince him to sleep in with me.  It sounded windy and not too promising.  After breakfast, Jacin went for groceries while I worked and the kids kept busy reading and walking along the beach.  We had another nice dinner of fish and shrimp again with Bob and John, then headed down to the beach for the last time, until we return again.  Truly, besides Morro Bay, CA, this is the first place we’ve truly fallen in love with.  We are all grieving somewhat about leaving, but hopeful that God will allow us to winter here.

 

 

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On to Lousiana…

Day 95 – On the eve of day 95, Jacin and I felt the pull to find a church to attend in the morning.  So, we googled churches in the area (truly, what on earth would we do without internet?), and we picked one that sounded like home.  So, we got up early enough to get the family ready and headed to Parkway Life church in Lumberton, TX.  Everyone was so welcoming, knew that we were new visitors, and we even got a Parkway Life mug as a gift.  The music and the service were great, very charismatic.  The sermon was somehow extremely appropriate to our current situation (how is it that a Pastor, no matter where you are, knows exactly what you need to hear?), entitled “You’ve Got What it Takes,”, addressing how God only gives us as much as we can handle.  After church, we headed back to camp to get packed up and head out.  Louisiana offered a lovely rain storm, followed by an amazing 18-mile-long bridge over the swamps.  At one point, Jacin “felt” something strange, so he pulled over to check the tires, which had been nothing but problems the last few days.  He checked everything over, but didn’t notice anything wrong, so we headed down the road again.  Maybe two miles later, we blew tire #3 on the front driver’s side.  We called roadside assistance (even though they hadn’t been able to provide assistance on the previous two blowouts), and after making several calls, waited 2 hours for help to never show up.  So, Jacin and Nation walked back to the closest exit to a truck stop we had called when we first blew the tire, to see if they happened to have someone who could help (even though they weren’t helpful with the phone call effort). The truck stop is called Tiger Truck Stop, so you won’t be surprised to know they have Tigers on display….  Within 30 minutes, we had assistance swapping out the spare and were on the road again.  During our wait, we discussed whether it was a good idea to try to continue on to the state park where we had made reservations for that night, and we decided that rather than pressing our luck, we would stay in the nearest RV park and hit a Baton Rouge tire shop the next morning to replace the rest of the tires.  So, we stopped just 10 short miles down the road in Port Allen and called it a night.

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Day 96 – We were up early to hit the tire shop.  Jacin got a quote of $3000 to replace the remaining 4 tires, which made me throw up.  That was more than twice as much as the two tires we had replaced on the side of the road in TX!!!  So, I went in with Jacin and had the guy recheck his math, which ended up shaving $1000 off the quote.  Phew!  So, we unhooked the truck to let them do their magic and journeyed off to find an alternator repair shop in hopes that they might be able to fix the slide pump motor that Jacin was able to slip off easily that morning.  The repairman first looked into ordering a replacement, which would cost $100-$200, plus we’d have to wait on shipping time.  But, he was willing to take a peak inside and see if there was anything he could do.  So, we left the motor with him and headed to a local mall to ill some time.  We checked out our first Big Lots, then went to a thrift store where we picked up a few new books.  The repairman called and had worked his magic – he was able to get the motor running with a minor clean up job!  Praise God!  So, we picked up the motor and headed to the tire shop to check on their progress.  Not good news.  They had switched out the front two tires, but the rear driver’s side wheels were completely bound up and could not be removed.  They worked on them for several hours to no avail, so we just loaded up the last two tires and headed to New Orleans, praying that we would not have any additional blow outs during the 80-mile venture.  We made it safe and sound to Bayou Segnette State Park, a nice large campground with a pool and free laundry!  Jacin spoke with the campground host and got a number for an on-site repairman to contact tomorrow.  He also installed the pump motor, and praise God, the slides worked!  On a very sad note, we found out that Roxie, Jacin’s aunt, has Stage 4 malignant brain tumors, so we will be keeping her family in our prayers.  It certainly made us realize just how small and petty our problems have been, even though they’ve seemed insurmountable at times.  Perspective…

Day 97, Tuesday, July 30 – Jacin left early to head to a State Farm certification class in New Orleans.  He was able to walk down Bourbon Street and the French Quarter a bit during lunch.  I worked most of the day, and Justice caught up on laundry that had not been done in a while because it had been trapped in a closet behind the slide.  The kids and I did go swimming and toured around the state park a bit.   It was a long class day for Jacin, but he felt good about being there and what he had learned.   He was home by 6:00, and we had a quiet night.

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Day 98 – Jacin was up early and headed to the city for another day of class.  He had a good day learning the estimating process of State Farm, and surprisingly, he ran into a familiar Rapid City face over his lunch hour, the daughter of one of his mom’s friends.  What a small world!  I worked again for quite a bit of the day, even taking a bike ride to the nearest post office to mail out a couple of tax returns.  I can’t even describe what it feels like to exercise in such heat and humidity.  I sweat more in 5 minutes outside in Louisiana than during an hour of Insanity!!!  Once back, the kids and I went swimming again.  They worked on a bit of school work to keep themselves busy and gear their brains up for the real deal, which is soon coming!  In bed Jacin and I discussed our next step.  We are both feeling anxious regarding what will happen after his training, not really knowing whether work will result quickly, and if not, where we are supposed to go.  The financial pressure after the whole tire fiasco is a bit overwhelming at times, but we are trying to stay strong in our belief that God brought us here for a reason.  We will see what the next several days of training bring.

Day 99 – Yet another day into the city for Jacin.  He had a very positive morning as the company presented itself and their work opportunities.  Jacin was in touch with a tire company, and they came out to the RV to attempt to whack the rear tires off.  The poor young man gave it his all for almost 2 hours, then let me know that his boss would come out that evening to try himself.  The kids and I swam again and also worked on schoolwork.  Jacin got home early, so Justice and I headed to the grocery store while Jacin and Nation waited on the bossman.  When Justice and I got back, we were so pleased to see that the old tires were laying next to the work truck!  The boss and his brother didn’t have it easy, but they were able to break them loose without applying heat.  Praise God!!!

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Day 100 – It really feels crazy typing 100.  Hard to believe it’s been so long, really.  Jacin headed to New Orleans to take his State Farm Cert tests.  He called around 10:00 to say that he had completed his first test, the estimating portion, in 20 minutes.  He passed with a 100%!  He had several hours until the next test began, so he headed out to tourist around in the French Quarter again.  He called again at 2:00 to let us know that he passed the policy portion of the test with an 84%.  We were so proud of him, and he was relieved to have the tests done.  Rather than come home right away, he did yet another bit of touring so he could participate in a Q&A session that afternoon.  I worked quite a bit of the day, but found time to go swimming with the kids again.

Day 101, Saturday, Aug 3 – Jacin headed back to the city yet again to participate in the Louisiana Citizens certification.  The class was pretty dull, as it was just a refresher of most of what he’d learned in previous classes he’d taken, but he signed up for a level 2 class to be held on Monday in the company’s Hammond office, with the hopes that he’d get a chance to make more contacts and see the work environment.  The kids and I rode our bikes to a Farmer’s Market that was advertised on the city’s website, but there was nothing there when we arrived.  So, we headed back to camp so Justice could catch a phone call with her best buddy in Rapid City, time much needed to ease her homesickness.  We of course went swimming.  Jacin was home early, so we decided to drive around a bit and see what there was to see.  We checked out a church he had been eyeballing on his various trips to town.  He also gave us some short tours of areas he’d been able to visit, including pointing out a lot filled with movie trucks (we assume for a Costner movie being filmed in the area), and we even got to take our truck on a ferry from Algiers to New Orleans.

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Day 102 – We made it to the 9:00 service at Celebration Church and enjoyed the worship service singing familiar songs.  The church, including the entire service (announcements, ordering, and all), was very similar to Open Bible.  They had a bookstore, where we picked up a few clearance fiction books for evening enjoyment.  After church, we headed to the French Quarter to experience the Satchmo Summerfest music festival and all the vendors.  It was SOOO hot and humid, but we had a good time.  The kids and I decorated coconuts, and we had some local cuisine off the vendor carts (a crepe with Nutella and bananas for Nation, red rice and beans for me, and fried fish for Jacin – nothing for Justice as she was too hot to eat).  We headed back to camp to cool off in the pool.  Then Jacin and I found the nearest RedBox and picked up a couple of movies for the evening.  We watched Rise of the Guardians and had Frosties for dinner (making memories, let me tell you!).

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Day 103 – Jacin had to leave very early to get to Hammond by 8:00, and he got to see a beautiful sunrise over Lake Pontchartrain.  I worked for a few hours, then the kids helped me go through all of our treasures and belongings to determine what could be given away (I know, right, can you believe we have a “Goodwill” pile while on the road?), and what we could at least send home and not keep with us in the RV.  We also did roughly 300 loads of laundry :), then attempted to go swimming, but the gate was locked.  So, I let the kids watch National Treasure while I read for a little while, then started on dinner.  Jacin got home pretty late and was discouraged.  We were hoping and believing that today would be a future-determining day, but there is simply no work right now due to no storms.  So, we really have no idea where we are going or what we are doing next.  That is a first on this trip.  We tried to keep our mind off of it by playing games with the kids, then really didn’t talk much about it at bed time.  Just needing everything to sink in, needing to pray, hoping that sleeping on it will help…

Day 104 – Tuesday, August 6 – Well, we are hunting for our next move today.  Jacin and I have spent the morning scoping out state parks in Texas, and calling on camp host openings in several of them.  The first few calls were discouraging, as they had no openings, but then Jacin talked to a couple of parks who are in need of help now.  We have submitted applications and are praying that this will result in something.  It is just after lunch time, and since we don’t really have a solid plan yet, we are going to stay here at Bayou Segnette at least one more night while we wait for things to come together.  Our family in San Marcos has been encouraging to come back and stay with/near them, so we are looking at parks in that area.  God knows, and we are doing what we can to move with his direction.  We are hoping to know more very soon.  Thank you to each person who is lifting us up in prayer and supporting our adventure with positive thoughts.  While I’d like to report that we have been nothing but strong and peaceful about all of the ups and downs, it would be a lie.  We trust God, absolutely, but that doesn’t always prevent us from being confused about where we are right now.  We have no doubt he is using this adventure to mold us, but we should know that won’t be easy, right?  We are grateful for our adventures up to this point, and that we are able to spend this time with our kids and see country that we never seen before.  And so we try to keep on a good face and take each minute as it comes.  Those of you who know us well know that that is not an easy task for this bunch, but it is good.  We will keep you posted…

Day 94 – Village Creek State Park, Lumberton, TX

We interrupt this message for a quick update on Day 93:

We had the most incredible, helpful tire angel at blowout #2.  He saved us $400 over taking the RV to the nearest Camping World, and he also gave us very useful information (although telling us all the tires need replacing is not happy information, it is need-to-know info).  Thank you, Gustavo!  We arrived in Lumberton roughly 3 hours after we intended, and our GPS (and phones) routed us to the wrong place.  So, when we finally checked in and picked a spot, it was already getting dark.  Jacin worked at getting the RV ready for the night, only to have our spare cell phone slip underneath the slide out, the pressure of from which was apparently the last straw for the hydraulic pump.  After 20 minutes of “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and dial again,” he was able to free the cell phone from its tomb.  We are happy to report that the cell phone survived, but we were stuck with the slide half-out, and unable to run anything on the hydraulic line (both slides and the levelers).  We tried dinking with it in the dark, but finally decided to wait until sunlight.

Day 94 – Needless to say, my poor husband was up most of the night trying to think through how to get us out of our most recent mess.  Before any of us was awake, he had the propane tank fixed and was digging into the hydraulic pump.  We replaced one of the solenoids, but to no avail.  We were able to manually retract the living room slide, so at least we can drive to New Orleans tomorrow and hopefully find a reputable person to help us get everything back in working order on Monday.  So, after hours spent running to parts stores and rolling around in the gravel, we quickly grabbed some groceries, had a quick bite, then headed out for a hike.  It was 1 mile to the swimming area of the state park, so we ventured off down the path.  Justice found the ittiest, bittiest, cutest little frog along the river, so of course brought him along to be her hiking buddy.

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When we finally made it to the swimming beach, we were all drenched in sweat.  And I am not kidding when I say drenched.  Every layer of clothing, soaked.  Justice and I excitedly headed into the water, fully clothed, only to find that the water was the same temperature as our hot bodies.  So, without good reason to jump in, we chased some more baby frogs, then headed back to camp.  We all took cold showers then settled in for a dinner of ice cream (which sounded like a good idea at the time, but our tummies are complaining now) and a quick episode of “Chuck.”  We are calling it quits early tonight in an attempt to catch up on some sleep after a restless night last night.  We are praying for safe travels tomorrow with no hiccups, and God’s hand in finding us the right parts and the right repair person on Monday.  We miss you all!  Thank you for your continued support!

PS – A BIG happy birthday to both Jessi and Austin today!

Grand Canyon, New Mexico, and Texas

Please forgive us for getting so far behind. It is amazing how many days can pass in what seems like such a short while. This is a long one, so please don’t feel pressured to read it all. Perhaps just peruse the photos (which are coming soon…).

Day 74, Sunday, July 7 – We had planned a trip to Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona for some hiking, but Justice work up feeling ill, which we attributed to some too-old leftover chicken (if only she would eat fish, which is what the rest of us had for dinner last night). Since it was my last day with my dad, Jacin volunteered to stay behind with Justice so we could continue with our plans. Just before we were ready to leave, Sandy volunteered to watch over Justice, because she isn’t up for hiking quite yet, anyway. So, We headed out with Jacin, dad, Nation, and Aaron, and embarked on a 6.6 mile round trip hike on West Fork Trail. It was plenty hot, but the trail had several creek crossings in which to cool down. Our goal, of course, was to hike it to the end, but the blazing heat wore the young boys out, so Grandpa agreed to start heading back with the youngins, and Jacin and I picked up the pace and headed toward the end. It was worth the additional effort. At the end, the trail simply ends at the creek’s edge, and to continue you have to wade. We took off our shoes and headed in, following the water around a couple of bends before deciding we’d shot enough pictures and should head back to meet up with the rest of the group. To my surprise, my anti-exercise husband took off running down the trail. I laughed to myself a bit, wondering how long it would be before he had to stop and heave, but after several minutes of not catching up to him, I took off down the trail to catch him. We ended up running at least 1.5 miles before we caught up with the rest of the family, and we took a break at an area in the creek that had natural slides in the red rocks. The boys played for quite a while before we coaxed them out of the water and made the rest of the trek back to the truck. We made the two-hour trip back to Prescott, whipped up a quick white chili dinner, and headed to bed.

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Day 75 – Jacin and Nation took the RV in to be checked out, and Justice and I stayed behind for chores and QEST appointments. The boys picked up breakfast at Starbucks while waiting for the RV, but after a while decided to head back to the house to check in and formulate a plan. Justice and I headed back into town with them and we caught a late lunch at Taj Mahal (Indian buffet – YUM!). We dinked around a bit before going to pick up the RV. Not so good news – the AC needs charging and the rear hydraulic leveling jacks are essentially shot (though continue to use them, knowing we’ll have to jack them back up). Bummer, especially when you have to pay a bill to have had nothing fixed! (I understand there is time that goes into diagnosing – it is just difficult to avoid feeling like you are getting the short end of the stick.) We headed back to the house and had dinner with Sandy, and the family went to bed as I prepared for a long night of work. The fun never ends!

Day 76 – Jacin and Nation took the RV back into town to have the AC charged, and we girls stayed behind yet again. There is a lot of bookkeeping to be done this month due to the end of the quarter, and I also had to prepare for my QEST finals this weekend. When the boys got home, it was more bad news – the AC was still not getting cold, and Affinity RV decided it needed an additional $400 repair (after we’d already dropped the same amount diagnosing and charging it). It is times like these when we are forever grateful for good friends. Jacin made a call to Danny in Rapid City, a wonderful man who owns a refrigeration/truck repair shop, and he talked Jacin through a few things to check out. Within the course of an hour, he had the A/C working like new – it was only a vacuum leak. Praise God! While he was on a roll, he tried cycling the jacks to see if he could coax them into working properly, but to no avail. At some point we will have to replace them, but thankfully we can work around the problem for a while. After dinner, I packed up to head to Denver the next day while watching a movie with the family. (Code – “Ooh, I’m shaking in my baby seal leather boots!” Code – “Oh, my big blue head!”) 🙂

Day 77 – I packed up and the family dropped me off at the shuttle to Phoenix. It will be a long weekend of internship, MANY tests, and lots of “sit on your butt” time, but as always, I do look forward to class. {Interjection – the next few days of activities will be short and to the point, as I wasn’t there, but rather am reading Jacin’s journal to fill in the details.} Jacin and the kids headed to Montezuma’s Castle, which is a hike leading to ruins built in the side of cliffs, then Montezuma’s well, a continuous fed watering hole.

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Day 78, Thursday, July 11 – Jacin and the kids headed to the Grand Canyon. They ate a big breakfast in Williams, then snapped some pictures of the motel and bar from the movie, “The Canyon”.

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They stopped in Tusayan and bought an annual National Parks Pass (makes sense since we assume we will have lots of opportunities to visit several more National Parks in the next several months), then rode the shuttle into the park. The walked along quite a bit of the rim and snapped lots of great pictures in the ideal lighting and great temperatures. Nation left his water bottle at one of the vista points, but then got lucky and found a replacement, as well as an umbrella. They left the Canyon around 5:30 and made their way home, to a very good night of sleep.

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Day 79 – Lazy day. The monsoons finally arrived, bringing in cooler temps and moisture – much needed and appreciated. Jacin and the kids cleaned the RV and went shopping for groceries. Justice then had an afternoon painting with Grandma Sandy, while the boys veged in front of the TV. After a steak and potato dinner, they all (including Dad and Sandy) retired to movie night, watching “The Canyon”.

Day 80 – Another lazy start. Everyone headed to Watson Lake with dad’s fishing boat and spent several hours trolling around. They spent a lazy evening watching a movie.

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Day 81 – Jacin and the kids attended church with Sandy, then tended to some chores around the house. They spent the afternoon playing cards and enjoying each other’s company. My flight into Phoenix was delayed, so I missed the shuttle up to Prescott, forcing Jacin to make the drive to pick me up. It was a super late night, but always good to be “home”.

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Day 82 – Jacin, Nation, and I were able to jump out of the RV and say good-bye to dad before he headed to work (Justice still had her head buried in her pillow). We all got showered and packed up, then after writing Sandy a good-bye note, we headed up to the Grand Canyon. We grabbed a great spot in Ten-X campground just outside of the park. After setting up camp, we headed into the park to try to get a couple hours of touristing in. However, a monsoon storm settled in and the buses were no longer taking people out to the farthest points. So, after getting suitably wet, we headed back to camp and enjoyed a few hours of card games and a movie. It was great to spend some quiet family time together after having been apart all weekend.

Day 83 – We made it into the park around 10:00 and hiked along the rim to several of the western points. Then the clouds started rolling in, so we grabbed the buses to hit the last 4 points before the rain came. Justice found what we believe to have been a baby horny toad at one of the stops, so she brought him along for several of the stops and enjoyed having a pet for a little while. Unfortunately, Jacin’s camera battery ran out before we were done exploring, but we were able to see some tremendous views of several different sections of the canyon. Afterwards, we drove some back roads outside the park boundary in an attempt to get to a few of the points that are not accessible to most tourists. Jacin let Justice drive since we were on gravel and dirt and there was no one around. She got her first lesson in dealing with muddy, rutted roads, and we ended up completely sideways at one point after she attempted to stay out of the mud. We never did find a back way in accessible by vehicle, but it was a fun adventure all the same!

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Day 84 – Time to pack up camp and head east. We drove all day through New Mexico, avoided Albuquerque by taking a smaller highway that bypassed the city, and ended up dry camping in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Socorro, NM.

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Day 85 – Didn’t get much sleep due to heat and noise. At some point you just have to decide whether to keep trying or just hit the road. We left Socorro before the kids were awake. We drove through mountains and clouds, past the Trinity Site (test site of the first atomic bomb), then through Lincoln (last escape of Billy the Kid). We dropped into Carizzozo, which reminded us of Iceland with the clouds and the lava fields. We headed to Roswell, NM, to see some aliens. Justice informed us that it would be a silly stop since “they don’t exist”, but she had fun posing with them anyway. We didn’t take the tour of the museum, but came away with some great evidence. We contemplated dry camping again somewhere in TX, but needed to dump and fill as our camping in the Grand Canyon was without hookups. So, we stopped east of Abilene, TX, to find a place to dump, but just decided to stay the night and take advantage of full hookups. We had no complaints from the kiddos who were able to swim a bit in the pool.

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Day 86 – We hung around Abilene RV Park after sleeping in so that we could catch up on laundry as well as so I could catch up on work. While I had this glorious idea that I could work while Jacin drives, attempting to use dual screens on bouncy roads and making phone calls without having them dropped has been challenging. So, shortly after 12 we headed out towards Cedar Lake State Park campground, our stopping point just outside of Dallas for a few days while Jacin attended an estimating software class in the city. We were surprised to find the campground mostly empty, especially so close to the city and on a weekend. Our site overlooked the lake, and even if there had been others nearby, the layout of the campground keeps most site fairly private. There were so many trees, and the playgrounds were “hidden” in the middle of forested areas. Jacin took the kids to a surprisingly cheap dinner at Pizza Hut while I worked. They filled up with gas, but the nozzle was rigged in such a way that it literally flew out of the gas tank twice, causing Jacin to be drenched in gasoline. He washed the truck afterward then headed back to camp so he could wash himself. He claims he was then going to work on the blog, but he ended up having issues with his mouse that he had to deal with so that his computer would be ready for class the next day. So, we’ll blame it on him that nothing has been updated in a timely fashion. 🙂

Day 87, Saturday July 20 – Jacin was up early to head to Dallas for his Symbility training. I had intended to take the kids to a reptiles program in the state park, but they slept in too late to make it. Once they were up and fed, we jumped on our bikes and headed to a mammals program at 11:00. We weren’t really sure how far it was to the meeting area, and looking on a 2-D map didn’t really prepare us for what we might encounter. Needless to say, after several large hills and 800% humidity in 97 degree heat, we were 15 minutes late and completely drenched in sweat. (Poor Nation’s face didn’t change from the color red until we were back in the RV for at least an hour.) But it was still interesting, as we were able to learn fun facts about local wildlife as well as hold a stuffed armadillo. Nation was even sprayed by a stuffed skunk. Now that’s Texas fun if you ever had it! After the program we took a very quick tour of a farm on the park grounds, then hopped back on our bikes to tour around a bit more. We hit the marina and cooled off a bit inside, then headed down to check out the beach. There were way too many people to try it out just then, so we took an extremely fun (sarcasm) short cut up the side of a wooded hill to our camper, and then spent the next 15 minutes pulling burrs off of our clothing. The rest of the day was spent in the RV taking advantage of the air conditioning. I cannot imagine trying to camp in Texas this time of year without hookups. I helped the kids with a bit of schoolwork, then spent the rest of the afternoon working while the kids veged. Jacin made it home around 6:30 and had homework to do, so it was a pretty quiet night.

Day 88 – Jacin was gone early again to class. The kids and I decided to try out the beach before it was packed with people. We spent a couple of hours playing in the mud/clay bottomed lake. We headed back to the RV and cleaned up for lunch. Jacin sent us a text at nearly 2:00 saying they still hadn’t stopped for lunch, which, if you know Jacin, is NOT a good thing. His brain was shutting down, and I would imagine he was on the verge of being HANGRY (hungry-angry). While Jacin was buried in a test that afternoon, I worked and the kids were happily engaged (chuckle) in more school work. Jacin thinks he fared well, although we won’t have the test results for a while.

Day 89 – I worked on bookkeeping and Jacin updated and submitted applications in the morning for as long as we could before we ventured out of the state park and headed towards San Marcos, where my Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary Alice live. They were able to provide us with power, which allowed us to stay on their property rather than several miles away, which allowed us much more time for visiting. We had a nice dinner together and visited late into the night as we discussed what me might do and see during our visit.

Day 90 – We had planned to head to San Antonio, but we had been up late the night before and had a tough time getting going. So, Mary Alice took us to the head waters of the San Marcos River, where she treated us to a glass-bottomed boat tour. It was incredible! The San Marcos river is spring fed, and the water is crystal clear. We could see several springs, many turtles swimming about, and flowers blooming underwater due to the sunlight’s ability to penetrate so deeply. After lunch, I stayed at the RV to work and the rest of the gang headed to a nearby cave. The tour ended up being too expensive, so Mary Alice took them on a driving tour of San Marcos. Then came back to the house to load up tubes and headed to the river. Mike brought chicken home for dinner, and the men helped a neighbor set up a piano, and then headed to my cousin Faith’s house to install a door. The rest of us headed to Faith’s a bit later and enjoyed a tour of her adorable home. Faith was not in town, but was visiting her siblings in Indiana, so unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to see her. It was another late night.

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Day 91 – We left (as early as is possible for this traveling bunch) to head to San Antonio. Our first stop was the San Juan Mission, which has been restored over the years and the grounds kept intact. We were lead through the grounds by a park ranger, so gained some very interesting knowledge about many of the early missions of what was Spain’s earliest attempts to colonize the area now known as Texas. It was great to do this first, before we hit the Alamo, which is in middle of San Antonio, so that we could get a true feel for what these missions were like before the population explosion. The Alamo was also very educational, but our hungry tummies were preventing our brains from taking in more information, so we headed down to the river walk and had a nice Mexican lunch at Casa Rio. We finished off our trip with a boat tour of the river walk area, then headed back to San Marcos before rush hour traffic. After dinner with Mike and Mary Alice, we headed off to bed after a tiring day of touristing.

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Day 92, Thursday, July 25 – We left San Marcos around 10:00 and headed up to Austin to the University of Texas, where my Uncle Mike works as a project supervisor. He showed us several of the larger, more impressive projects he has been a part of over the last several years, and then we were treated to a tour of the main clock tower, where Charles Whitman lead his shooting rampage in 1966. The tower is basically closed to the public, so it was a true treat to see it from the inside. The building used to be the student library, and we saw several rooms that are being restored to their original beauty, which will eventually be used as meeting places. We also were able to go up inside the clock and watch the gear mechanism change the time, as well as walk around the outside of the clock and see where several bullets from local residents had hit the tower in their attempt to stop Charles Whitman. The last treat on the tour was our up close and personal viewing of the Carillon, which is essentially an organ, but with bells instead of pipes. We watched as a student played a music piece for us, using his fists rather than fingers due to the size and weight of the “keys”. Nation also got to take his turn at playing, and he chose the age old, beloved tune, “Heart and Soul”. Afterward, while waiting for Mike to finish his work day, we spent several hours in the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library on campus, mostly enjoying the photojournalism of presidents since FDR. Even the kids enjoyed their time looking at all the photos and the memorabilia from President Johnson’s ranch. Afterward, we headed to the famous Black’s Barbeque in Lockhart, TX, where Mike and Mary Alice treated us to the best barbeque we’ve had in years. We spent the evening looking through old family photos while the kids watched Voyage of the Dawntreader in 3D. It was yet another late night.

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Day 93 – So here it is, Friday, July 26th. We left Mike and Mary Alice’s house around 9:30 to start our trek toward Louisiana, where Jacin has classes starting next week. We thought it best to give ourselves a few days, just in case. Well, just in case happened. Right outside of Schulenburg, TX, we had our first tire blowout. We were directed to a great traveling tire savior who helped us get our spare on so we could continue down the road. It wasn’t even an hour after saying to each other, “OK, we can check that off the “travel to-do list” and noting how many tires we were seeing next to the road, that our second tire on the same side blew, just outside of Brookshire, TX. So here we are, having two tires replaced in a truck repair parking lot (as you can imagine, nothing on an RV is cheap), then headed down the road to an RV shop to replace the propane regulator that was blown off our tank from the second tire. I have a telephone appointment scheduled for this afternoon that I am not sure I will make, or may have to try to take while we are still driving, although it will inevitably fall during my peak navigation duties. And such is life on the road, I guess. Tonight we will stay in Village Creek State Park in Lumberton, TX. (Please, dear God, grant us traveling mercies.) Until next time…

Returning to the US

Day 62, Tuesday, June 25 -The OBCC group finished the house for Brenda. We helped the women pick up furniture and decorations they had purchased for the young couple – more than one pickup full, which required the assistance of Mike driving the USS Puente (a very LOUD (visually) one-ton dually that was donated to Puente along with the puppet trailer). After the last bit of painting was done and semi-dry, the women went to work decorating and making the house a home. They set up beds, hung pictures, and filled a storage cabinet with food and supplies. In the meantime, Brenda and Sarah served us from a taco stand right in their driveway, and it was delicious! All the while, Brenda kept trying to sneak a peak at her new home, so several of us worked to block her view. Directly after lunch, my stomach started to do summersaults, making me fear that I had accidentally ingested wheat (most of the time the corn tortillas are safe, but sometimes they use flour as well, and I had failed to verify today). So, we grabbed the kids and headed back to the base so I could do some damage control, effectively missing the dedication and presentation of the house. What a party pooper! However, I was successful at warding off any obvious side affects, which allowed us to be treated to one of our last Mexican meals, complements of Puente, with Toni, Dave, and Erica. We discussed our time in Mexico, what we had learned, and how it had impacted our lives. Yet another great day.

Day 63 – We took the OBCC group to Fernando’s rehab, Fountain of Hope, in the morning and enjoyed a time of worship together. Matt Veal had prepared something to share with the men, but the Holy Spirit moved in a different direction. We were able to hear of struggles and success stories from several people from the rehab as well as the OBCC group, and our time together ended with a commitment to be alcohol and drug free, expressed by walking over a rope and then burning it, followed by powerful prayer.

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We ate our last fish tacos at Tacos Angel, enjoying a last meal with Marcial.

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In the afternoon, we headed to Casa Hogar Sion, where I was able to see the completed concrete project for the first time. They had already arranged for a group to add a shade over the slab, which is to be completed sometime next week. It will be the perfect place to play.

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Jacin was surprised to see Juanito (of Juan and Alma) there, and he was crying and had his head wrapped. We found out the orphanage helps with his schooling transportation, and after school as he was playing with the kids before going home, he was struck in the head with a swing. He seemed disoriented, which concerned us, so Jacin got permission to take him home early, with the help of Marcial to translate.

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Jacin made a quick stop at the Calimax (essentially a Safeway) up the hill from Juan and Alma’s house to let Juanito buy a soda and pick out some ice cream (the common cure for possible concussion), and Juanito’s eyes grew wide as he tried to take it all in. Marcial told Jacin that he had never been there before, and neither had his mother. Marcial told Juanito that he could get the treats, but to be careful not to grow to like any of it too much, because he would likely not get them again any time soon. This was yet another reality check for us, to see just how easy we have it compared to his family and how much we take even ice cream for granted. At Juanito’s house, Jacin was pleasantly surprised to find little Enoch in the doorway baby jumper we had bought for him at a street shop a few days before, as well as their family pictures on the wall.

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After dinner at the base, we headed to Cruising for Jesus to deliver some bread from Panera and to see the finished sink project. It turned out so well! We headed to the Cruising church for our last service with them, and bought a few hats to support their upcoming car show outreach (with the benefit of a few memoirs for us!). We said our last good-byes to Pastor Robert, Carlos, and Hairo, all of whom we had grown close to through our various trips with them as translators.

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Day 64 – We enjoyed our last meal with our OBCC family and prepared to leave. Many tears were shed as we sent them off, and then said our good-byes to Marcial and Amalia.

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It is so difficult to keep saying good-bye to people who truly have become family. We enjoyed our shortest border crossing yet – only 30 minutes! We headed to the RV in El Cahon, unpacked in the unrelenting heat, and decided to head out to have lunch and do a small bit of shopping while the RV cooled down. Afterwards, we enjoyed a swim with the kids at the RV park and talk to a few of the “residents” there.

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Our plan was to stay the night, but we decided it would be best to start driving towards Prescott that evening to avoid as much of the scorching southern Arizona sun as possible. As we were hooking up to leave made the lovely discovery that the rear license plate and receiver hitch had been stolen off the RV during its 3-week storage. Welcome back to the US! We made it as far as Quartzite on Interstate 10 and had to call it a night. It was still 93 degrees at 12:30 a.m.!!! Needless to say, we ran the generator in order to run the A/C, or there would be no hope of sleep regardless of how tired we were.

Day 65 – We woke up at 6:30 to 90 degree heat and hit the road. It was an easy drive to Prescott, but upon our arrival we spent the greater part of the day dealing with the stolen license plate and getting ourselves reconnected to everyone everything in the US after being gone for 5 weeks. We were all dragging, so we crashed early after a lovely chicken dinner prepared by Sandy. We all slept in the house because it was still pretty warm by the time we went to bed. Jacin and I had yet to sleep in our own bed! 😦

Day 66, Saturday June 29 – I had ordered from Bountiful Baskets with a 7:00 a.m. pickup, so Jacin and I were up early to drive into town. The volunteer team was so organized that we were able to collect our food 15 minutes early! Afterwards, we ran the truck through a car wash to rid it of its 5 weeks of Mexico dust. Back at the house, Jacin spent the day fixing a few things on the camper and preparing it to plug into to Dad and Sandy’s house, as well as help Dad with a few projects. I had the privilege of working with a new QEST client, a woman (Lou) who had been referred to me in the fall of 2012 who was interested in the work and had heard I may be traveling to her area. I am hopeful to see her a few more times before I leave. In the afternoon, we headed to a neighborhood potluck to thank some of the fire fighters who had helped to contain the recent fire on Granite Mountain, right in Dad and Sandy’s back yard. They had been under mandatory evacuation, and so had packed everything in their house and were ready to leave if the fire got too close. Thankfully it was contained before that happened. Jacin and I got to sleep in the RV in our own bed for the first time in over 5 weeks!!! The kids also got to enjoy their own rooms. Needless to say, we all slept well. 🙂

Day 67 – It was basically a quiet day. We attended church at The Heights with dad and Sandy. We treated dad and Sandy to home cooked steak dinner. Afterwards, we enjoyed a thunderstorm on the back porch for a couple of hours. The storm cooled the air so greatly that we were able to open the windows to the house and RV and fill them both with fresh air. Before heading to bed, however, Jacin saw on the news that there was a fire in Yarnell, and that while we were enjoying the storm, 19 men had died during the constantly changing wind gusts. We were glued to the TV for quite some time before heading to bed. This is a true tragedy for the Prescott community.

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Day 68, Monday July 1 – Wow, how can it be July already? Jacin and Dad oiled the wood support beams on the back porch, which required the use of the case loader (grunt grunt). Then they worked to unload a crane that had been attached to a gooseneck trailer for over 20 years. I worked on some bookkeeping while Sandy ran to town to pick up the cousins, Dru and Aaron, which we hadn’t seen in over 3 years. Once they were at the house, the boys spent the rest of the day shooting arrows into bales of hay and catching lizards. After dinner, we were treated to the Oldest Rodeo on Earth, where we caught an impressive show by John Payne, the One Arm Bandit, as he herded two Buffalo onto a flatbed trailer, then onto the roof of the attached horse trailer. We had a lot of fun! Once home, we played the bathroom shuffle game as we attempted to get six bodies ready for bed.

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To be continued…

Update through Day 61 – time with familiar faces

Day 53, Sunday June 16 – This is the second father’s day in a row that Jacin has spent in Tijuana.  We thought it would be fun to attempt yet again to get some photos printed for Juan and Alma and deliver them on Father’s Day.  We did remember to take the hard drive this time, but it was too big for the photo machine to read.  We decided to eat lunch at Applebee’s, where the names of all the dishes were in English, but the descriptions were in Spanish.  It was our most expensive meal in a long time.  We bumped into the gentleman who custom-made the doors for the church project and visited with him for a while.  Our next stop was to be the (free) zoo, but Justice’s stomach didn’t agree so we went back to the base.  I worked for a few hours while Jacin transferred Juan and Alma’s photos to a smaller jump drive and attempted yet again to print the photos, only to get there and have the store be closed.  Why would it be so difficult?  Dinner time rolled around and we were going to prepare a meal and veg, but Dave and Toni came back from shopping and other errands and invited us to deliver a bread donation (complements of Panera) to the Fountain of Hope men’s rehab, which we had yet to visit.  So we headed over and met with Fernando, the director, with Jesus interpreting, a young man who had helped us with several projects already, the latest being the church project.  We bumped into several men who had helped with the build as well.  The rehab is spacious (though mainly outdoors), with a chapel, a well, a workout area (with a few barbells and some resistance bands attached to a tree), a kitchen, and several bunk houses.  It was very well kept and the man were relaxing before a hard week ahead.  We went to Tacos Casa Blanca (not Justice – still not feeling well), where we were overwhelmed by a very large group of young Americans who had taken over the taco stand.  They had come to TJ to build houses as well, which were in the same neighborhood as the house and church we had just helped build. After the mandatory stop at the ice cream shop on the way back to the base, we settled in for an episode of Dr Who with the kids and off to bed.

Day 54 – I stayed behind with the kids as Jacin left to pick up Carlos from Cruisin’ to assist with buying supplies (concrete block, concrete, etc) for the bases of the laundry sinks and cooking area.  We are excited to see how it turns out!  We had a “staff” meeting at the base over lunch to discuss the upcoming groups, the first a youth group from Calvary Open Bible in Springfield, Oregon, with 30 people, and the second our very own Open Bible Christian Center group from Rapid City!  During the meeting, I certainly realized for the first time just how much planning and coordination it takes to make things run smoothly at the base.  Afterwards, we picked up Carlos again to help us purchase metal for the cross for the roof of the church we had helped build, then dropped it off at the Cruisin’ body shop.  They work with limited tools and materials but with tremendous results.  We discussed how much of a blessing it would be to have a new welder and shields donated to the cause.  I just happen to know someone who may be able to pull a few strings in that area…  We made stir fry for dinner and watched Spiderwick Chronicles (thank you Lord for Netflix and Internet) and headed to bed.  The first large group was due to arrive later in the evening, which meant an early morning for Jacin in the kitchen.

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Day 55 – After breakfast, all the Puente “staff” lead small groups of the large group from Oregon in some projects around the base – painting over graffiti on a neighbor’s wall, washing all of the chairs in the auditorium, cleaning out a dog run area for Chimbu, etc.  It was such a blessing to see them work with such eagerness to bless the Puente Base itself.  After lunch, the group headed to Casa Hogar Sion while we helped Amalia clean up the kitchen and dining room and worked on small projects.  Then off to Juan and Alma’s for dinner, with Marcial as our translator.  (To back up a bit, in case we haven’t mentioned this in an earlier post – Juan and Alma contacted Marcial to find out if we were still in TJ and to invite us to dinner.  We asked if we could bring a translator, and since they know Marcial, it was a good match).  Alma made mole with chicken and rice, with creamy jello for dessert.  The meal was great (although the kids didn’t like it much, but I am proud to say they cleaned their plates!) and it was such a blessing to have actual conversations with them, rather than try to muddle our way through with charades.  They are such a sweet, God-fearing family who are so appreciative of the little things.  Their children are happy, their home is well-kept, and they are hard workers.  Alma gave me some roses from her garden, which graced the dining room at Puente for the next several days.  It was difficult to say good-bye, but we knew we would see them at church on Sunday and arranged to sit with them.  We have made so many dear friends here that it will be difficult to leave without shedding a few tears.  Jacin took a new way home, which nearly required him to engage the 4-wheel drive, but it was neat to see some unfamiliar neighborhoods.  Stopped (as always) for ice cream, then off to bed.

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Day 56, Wed, June 19 – After picking up Oliver from his church (our translator for the day), we went with the Oregon group to a boy’s ranch, located on a historic Mexican cattle ranch.  It currently houses 25 boys ranging 4 – 18 years of age.  The place looked like a set right out of a movie, with the big wooden doors with cast iron hinges, a large outdoor cooking area with a brick stove, and cactus decorating the landscape – absolutely astounding.  The director mentioned that their washing machine was broken, proof of which was a rather long line of laundry wrapping around the house.  The Puente leaders had just gotten a donation directed to the boy’s ranch that would cover the cost of repair, praise God!  The youth group played soccer with the boys that were home during the morning session of school, and there were a few little boys to tickle and giggle with for the girls.  We headed back to Oliver’s church for a picnic lunch, then off to another facility run by the same director which houses the girls and young children.  Here the youth group presented a puppet show and played some games with the kids, and in general just loved on them.  It didn’t take long for all the kids to start asking for capuchis (piggy-back rides), even the older girls who had to weigh more than 70 pounds!  After a fun-filled day playing with kiddos, the group headed off to the market and we headed back to the base.  The group had elected to hold their own Wednesday evening youth service rather than attend Cruisin’, so we took the opportunity to just unwind as a family.

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Day 57 – Up early to prepare the last breakfast for the Oregon group.  We had the pleasure of getting to know Kirk, the church’s pastor, who had roots in the Rapid City Open Bible church, and he extended an invitation for us to park at their home anytime, which has full hook-ups!  He has a great family and it would be a pleasure to get to know them more; perhaps God will arrange this sometime in the future.  After they left, we had a busy day turning and cleaning all the rooms and bathrooms to get ready for our home church which was arriving later that evening.  Jacin set up one of the portable amps and cranked up Chris Tomlin, and we could hear Amalia and Marcial singing along in Spanish.  Pastor Robert from Cruisin’ stopped by to drop off the cross, and we were absolutely amazed.  He said his welder asked how good of a job to do, and Robert told him to do it as unto the Lord.  Well, he certainly took that request seriously!  It was completely painted and ready for installation, completely streamlined with no weld seams visible.  It was so much more than we had hoped for!  After cleaning the house, we headed to the church to put it on the roof, where we met up with the group of young adults who were building 5 stucco houses in the same neighborhood.  It was great to visit with a few of them and just see how God is working to impact so many lives.  As we drove away from the church, we kept our eyes on the new cross that we pray will serve as a beacon for those searching for life.   We grabbed lunch for the family and Marcial and Amalia and enjoyed a meal of fish tacos (YUM!) with them.  Before we knew it, it was time for bed, but as I was finishing up my nightly ritual, I heard the OBCC group arrive, so I quickly snuck across the hall to give some hugs (and receive several that were sent by my mom!).  As it turns out, Justice had beat me to it, and it wasn’t long before Jacin even joined us as well.  It was hard to go to bed that night, as we were so excited and blessed to visit with people from our church family.  We look forward to having more time with them this coming week.

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Day 58 – Friday, June 21 – I must say it was difficult to stay and clean up in the kitchen after breakfast rather than attend the morning praise and devotions with OBCC.  It was the first day of the house build, and they whipped through a ton of work!  All siding and trim was painted, and all four walls and the floor were up.  Part of the group left to walk the neighborhood and invite people to the VBS, and the kids and I left after lunch and went back to base with a small group who was in charge of planning the festivities.  We helped them navigate through the supplies in the puppet trailer and prepare bags to hand out to the children.  A new couple arrived at the base today who will be taking over our “helper” roles when we leave, a retired couple from Indiana, I believe – Ymetta and Andy.  We had chicken tostadas at the base for dinner, and after clean up we were able to sit and visit with friends.  We also took the nice walk to get ice cream later in the evening, catching up and visiting the entire time.  We are getting our tanks filled for sure!

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Day 59 – VBS!  The team did a great job with the festivities!  Dan Bender and Fay Clegg were clowns and kept the kids entertained in between puppet shows, nail polishing, a bouncy castle, French braiding (Justice filled in here), and even a special unicycle presentation followed by some yo-yo tricks by Lucas Clegg.  In the afternoon, several of the ladies went shopping for the house, a big group went to an orphanage to play with kids, and Jacin and I stayed with the building group.  We had been instructed not to take a job away from anyone in the group, so, since they were progressing so well, we ended up mostly visiting with each other, which was actually nice because we have had virtually NO alone time since we arrived in Mexico.  It was difficult, however, not pitching it, but there simply wasn’t anywhere to pitch in.  We did help clean up the build site and shuttle everyone back to the base, where we feasted on Tamales for dinner (thanks Amalia!).  There was a group who walked to the ice cream shop after the sun went down, but our family stayed behind to visit with friends.

Day 60 – It was an easy morning with a late breakfast and plenty of time to get ready for church.  After amazing worship lead by Sammie, the worship leader at Templo Sion, Pastor Christie gave the sermon with Sammie translating for her.  Jacin had the pleasure of holding Enoch during the entire service, and he walked around with him and talked to him, praying for him and his family while listening to the sermon.  It ended with leaders from Sion coming up front to pray with people, which lead to 30 minutes of spirit-filled prayer and healing.  It was fantastic!  We had Mike help us say good-bye to Juan and Alma and their family for the last time, which included tears, even from Jacin.  Then we headed to Rosarito with the group for an afternoon of shopping and the beach.  We split from them to find a taco stand that had corn tortillas (as we found that quite a few had flour only), and we found a great little place called Pollo Feliz, where we feasted on a whole chicken with some grilled onions and jalapeños, spicy salsa and extra spicy guacamole, corn tortillas and corn chips.  It was so good!  Then we headed to an ice cream shop to cool down our tongues.  Justice wanted to find the Veal family so that we could shop with Anna, and God granted her wish.  We walked the beach with them and enjoyed their kids playing in the water.  Before we knew it, it was time to head back.  Dan and Carol Bender had been shopping for pottery and had found several pieces they wanted to take back, so we took them with our pickup and spent a couple of hours collecting their treasures and driving back to base.  We did made it back to the base in time for some taco soup, and then we sat and visited with our friends.  I was even treated to two foot baths – one by my sweet boy, and another by Toni Broom, who blessed me with her time and her kind words.  It was difficult for me to say good night and go to bed, as it has just been so long since I was surrounded by so many lovely women and good conversation.

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Day 61 – I have been battling a cold and a frail voice for a few days, and unfortunately both kids woke up with congestion and fatigue today, so we stayed behind while Jacin went with the group on their excursions.  I would imagine they will finish the house today, and they were going to take some smaller groups to the AIDS hospice as well as to the women’s rehab.  I was bummed to miss these visits, but my kiddos needed rest, and it allowed me time to work on them a bit and hopefully zap whatever was trying to attack their systems.  We even climbed into a twin bed together for a nap – it was sweet.  Enchiladas are on the menu tonight, and I look forward to hearing about the day when the group gets back.  Before they left, Jacin lead us in prayer with the leaders of Puente because Kathy is headed to a conference today, so we had to say our good-byes to her.  More tears were shed – it is going to be hard to leave here.  Everyone is so wonderful and each has their own strengths, and it is such blessing to see them work together.  Kathy keeps hinting that it would be okay for us to stay a little longer so we can have a proper good-bye when she returns, but we will be leaving when OBCC leaves so that we can spend time with our Dads.  Kathy is such a sweet woman, with an amazing ability to see the best in everyone.  Jacin and I are both hoping that at least a little of that has rubbed off on us.

Well, that’s it for yet another week.  I just can’t believe how quickly the time passes here.  Before we know it, we will be back in the US, but we pray God will not let us forget our time here, that he will keep TJ close to our hearts and in our minds.  We can easily see another trip back here in the Spring, and we are hopeful to be better prepared with our language before that time comes.

A church project completed

IMG_0243 Danielle enjoying the toddlers and babies at Casa Hogar Sion.

Day 48, Tues, June 11 – It was our second big day at the house/church project.  We had a large group of men come to help from the men’s rehab, so roofing on the church was done by the end of the day.  Justice and I helped Sarai and Reid from Journey church work on trimming the windows and corner of the buildings, while Jacin helped with roof sheeting and sheet rock in the church.  Nation tends to help when he is asked, but he also has found friends to play with at nearly every place we visit.  I also forgot to mention to Jacin what I blessing I encountered the day before with him:  There was a young homeless man who was trying to sell shorts to the group.  None of us had any money along because we were there to work, but we offered him water.  As I was painting, Nation went over to talk with him (he is the most fearless as far as trying to communicate is concerned, and the locals really seem to enjoy him).  I kept an eye on the situation, as any mother hen would, and before I knew it, there was my little man with his hand on the man’s shoulder, and I could see that he was praying for him.  It was a sweet sight!  By the end of the day, Jacin’s elbow was screaming and my grip strength was failing.  Our bodies definitely aren’t used to this type of work (anymore, in Jacin’s case).  It was a long hot day, and we all crashed fairly hard after dinner and a shower.

Day 49 – Justice and I helped Sarai caulk the windows, and Jacin helped Dave Phillips organized the work truck (not a small task) while the Journey team finished roofing the house (with the help of the rehab guys again) and taped and mudded the inside of the church and house.   The women of the church we were building for provided lunch, which was zucchini stuffed with a meat sauce.  It was fantastic!  Our family ended up leaving early that day as there were just too many bodies and not enough tasks left to help with.  After dinner, we worshipped with the Cruisin’ for Jesus church and were blessed by a “sermon” presented by the Pastor from Lifehouse, Pastor Brian (translated into Spanish for the rest of the congregation by our good friend Carlos from Cruisin’).

IMG_0184Praying over the slab before construction begins.  IMG_0190  1016652_480072222074848_246731587_n[1] The church dedication.

Day 50, Thursday, June 13 – Jacin and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary by taking a trip to Mexico (and……done).  We headed back to the project to help with painting the interior of the church along with some last-minute touch up.  As Journey church was working on completing the buildings, Lifehouse church held a vacation bible school program for the neighborhood kids with the new puppet trailer!  It was such a blessing to see it being put to use, and being able to witness all of the children learning about Jesus.  After VBS, we headed to the associate pastor’s house (Daniel) for another home cooked meal, which was a spicy soup with chicken, pork, and hominy.  We were even treated to live music provided by the Pastor’s daughter and Daniel’s son.  We ate inside a building that is on the back of Daniel’s property, currently being used as the meeting spot for the church.  He showed us a spot in the floor where he had recently fallen through during a worship service as he was jumping while praising.  The concrete floor of the new building will be more sturdy for all of their spirit-filled dancing!  Daniel said that once the church has moved into the new building, he and his wife plan to turn the old location into a home for women in need.  Once again, we ended up leaving early once the only job left was to paint the inside of the house.  We gave Amalia a ride to her first bus stop and headed to Walmart with the intention to have some pictures printed for Juan and Alma.  But, just like the last two previous times we’ve attempted this, we forgot the hard drive at the base.  It’s a good thing we will be here for a while yet. 🙂  We had dinner at the base, then joined both groups and the entire church in a dedication ceremony in the new church building.  Pastor Robert from Cuisin’ for Jesus was our translator for the evening.  It was truly an honor for us to be present at the first service held there!  After some great worship followed by cake and coffee, we headed home to crash for the night.  Nation was complaining about being itchy, and we found several bites all over his body.  Chalking it up to mosquitos or some other friendly biter, we slathered him with some lotion and turned to dreamland.

Day 51 – We joined the Lifehouse church for a trip to the AIDS hospice.  This place is truly amazing.  They receive no government support, so are just funded by donations.  They generally have anywhere between 80-100 patients in all different stages of the disease.  While the Lifehouse group held a short worship service, Jacin and I had the pleasure of visiting with Rick Lopez, a resident of the facility who lived most of his life in San Diego.  He has been battling the disease for many years, and was very up front with us regarding his life and the mistakes he’s made, and how some of us need to have a decent smack on the head before we pay attention to God.  His faith is strong, and he seemed hopeful, even while he shared stories of all the people he’s met in the center that have gone to be with the Lord.  The disease can affect everyone so differently, and often times a person who is feeling strong one day will take a quick downturn and be gone within a few days.  Rick told us how lonely many of the residents are, partially because there is still much discrimination in Mexico against  infected people due to lack of education.  His family visits once a month, but we could tell he misses them.  We look forward to seeing him again when we visit with the Rapid City Open Bible church next week.  This is yet another ministry in which we wish we could invest more time and help in some meaningful way.  We will be praying that God shows us just how we can best do that.  Back at the base, I spent the afternoon working while the rest of the family helped around the base (the two church groups headed to the beach for rest of the day).  Jacin drove Amalia home, and on the way they stopped at several hardware stores to purchase a couple of concrete washtub sinks for Cruisin’ for Jesus.  (I cannot remember if we’ve mentioned this yet, but these men cook over a fire outside and do their laundry in buckets because the cost of electricity is extremely high here.  We had been praying for a way to bless them, when we came across some fantastic sinks at a local Marketeria that have a washboard on one side and a nice deep basin on the other.  We were unable to have them priced the day we saw them, so thought we would just run it by the Pastor for approval and figure the rest out later.  Amalia was an angel and did some shopping around for us on her way home the day before to find us the best deal.)  We delivered the sinks just before dinner and had a chance to visit with Pastor Robert in more detail.  His history is one of drugs and alcohol, and his heart is truly for the men who are there to get clean.  He told us that while the cost of electricity is a driving factor for not having more amenities at the home, it is also a very humbling experience for the men to have to wash their clothes in buckets and prepare their food over a campfire.  He wants them to appreciate everything that they once had but gave up for drugs.  The men there are simply incredible and we have been blessed getting to know them more and more each week as we worship with them and feed the homeless with them.  Jacin made plans to pick Carlos up on Monday and take him to get materials to build a base for the sinks, as well as a new base for the cooking area.  We finished our evening with quesadillas from a stand near the base, followed by a few games of pool with the Journey team.  Nation complained again about being itchy when climbing into bed, so we looked him over and realized there seemed to be more bites than the day before.  I looked up pictures online and was not pleased to conclude he had gotten into a patch of fleas during our week at the build site (he played in several dirt holes and was running around with kids the whole time, and bugs just seem to find his marshmallow skin  too tempting!)  I decided not to share the lovely news with him until I could confirm my conclusion with Amalia the next day, but I mixed some eucalyptus with some lotion and slathered it on (I have no idea how I would survive without the internet).

This is the laundry and kitchen for the ministry “Cruising for Jesus, Tijuana”. We asked if a washtub sink would help, they are so cheap, they now will have two. This lead to them telling us they want to improve the kitchen with a concrete block grill, so Monday we are going to pick up the materials for this. This ministry is special to us, as Pastor Robert (in the red) and Carlos (an ex L.A. gang member) have really touched our kids. They have incredible stories of kicking drug habits through Christ. They continue to pull men of the streets who want to get clean. The living conditions are terrible, but Pastor Robert explains that as he learned in the US Marines, they gave up great lives to drugs. He wants them to be reminded of the wives and children they abandoned to habits that put them in poverty. There are great stories of wives forgiving them and taking them back. This is possibly the most life changing ministry we have seen.

IMG_0218  IMG_0226   IMG_0222 The men from “Cruising for Jesus” showing their laundry and kitchen.

Day 52 – Saturday, June 15 – Jorge from the orphanage (Casa Hogar Sion) called at 6:15 wondering when Jacin was going to arrive so they could start pouring the concrete.  We had been so busy all week and Jacin was so worn out that he had forgotten to touch base with Jorge to get a time figured out, but we honestly didn’t expect them to be ready to start so early!  After stripping several beds to wash away any lingering fleas, we helped Amalia in the kitchen and bade our new friends farewell as they headed home, and by the time we got to the orphanage, the project was basically done.  A great group of boys from the home were helping several men with the mixing and pouring, and we were lucky enough to witness a few dunkings into the water tank.  They did such a great job, and we were so thrilled that they just took charge and got it done.  We played with the toddlers a babies a bit before heading back to the base (with many of them crying when we left – so heart breaking!).  After returning to the base, we found that Amalia had already stolen our laundry pile and remade our beds (she is constantly taking care of us, even though we ask her not to; I don’t think she knows how NOT to serve others).  I showed her Nation’s bites and she basically told us they were from fleas, or at least we are pretty sure that is what she said.  There was something in her words about dogs, being at the church building site, other kids, and lots of other words we didn’t quite figure out, but she gave us some Benadryl tonic out of the first aid kit to help with the itching.  She didn’t seem too concerned, so we have decided not to be, either.  Angel, Amalia’s grandson, showed up to play with Nation, so while the boys had another water balloon fight, Justice and I headed up the street to the local flea market (thought not to buy fleas, because we already have some of those).  It was like garage sale heaven for us, as we dug through piles of clothes (all in very good, like-new condition) and found a few shirts we couldn’t live without.  After spending 68 pesos on 7 items (roughly 75 cents a piece), we went back to base and have been vegging with the family since.  Jacin is pretty wiped out and looking forward to a few days “off” without groups at the base.

Its hard to see in the photos, but the old concrete was rough, unlevel and had a lot of steps in it. For babies and toddlers learning to walk, this was a mess. They now have a large, flat, nice area to play in. They even set posts for a screened cover to cut down the sun and heat. The hope is that groups seeing this improvement will donate to do the next slab, which is worse, but wasn’t where the toddlers play.

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Until next time…