Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 2

Day 1

Sunday, July 19 – I don’t think any of us slept too well the first night. We had a big breakfast at 8, then we headed to a morning church service for missionaries in an open-air gym. It was an interesting sermon about longevity in mission work by a New Zealand preacher who had been a missionary for 17 years. He talked about how hard it is to be a long-term missionary and what is needed to succeed. I was kind of surprised to see so much diversity and so many Caucasian families – I really admire people who can dedicate their lives to mission work.

Christian missionary church in Nicaragua
Christian missionary church in Nicaragua

We went back to base camp for tuna/pb&j sandwiches, then we finally got to go to the village in Mateare to meet the Nicas and the families we were assigned to. We had a pow-wow in the open-air community center – and Eduardo, an energetic, Godly Nica who ran the show for the week, made it fun and lively with a couple of icebreakers. First-time “Gringos,” a.k.a. the Americans, got to go up front and since a song, then we were each introduced to our families. Jerod and I met our family – Jorge (24), Gizelle (22), Estephanie (9), and Sebastian (16 months). It really felt like we had a connection with them since their toddler was almost the same age as Lil’ Miss K. He was similar in so many ways.

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16-month-old Sebastian

Unfortunately I seemed to be allergic to something in Nicaragua, and my eyes were watering and itching like crazy by this point. They got progressively better throughout the week but didn’t stop watering entirely until Thursday afternoon. We walked to our family’s home and tried (and felt like we failed miserably) to communicate with them. We figured out ages and birthdays, and they showed us their photo album with wedding and baby photos. We had an interpreter for a few minutes (there were 6 or 7 that worked with us all week), so we were able to learn each others occupations (Jorge is an oil truck driver) and a bit more – like the fact that Jorge’s uncle works in Washington D.C. and speaks 4 languages. Later in the week we found out that Estphanie was Gizelle’s nice, and that her mother is working in Peru and sending back money for her medical bills, because she has some issues with her spine (scoliosis?). We took a few photos with each other, then we went to work.

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Since we were first-timers, we didn’t really know what was going on and things were pretty hectic. Jerod was volunteered to work on the roofs, and I worked on blocking (doing the cinder blocks on the bottom half of the homes). The Nicas work alongside us as the homes are built, and it felt like they knew much more about it that we did and that we were just in the way. Later in the week we got into a groove and things went much more smoothly. The homes are probably 16×20(?) with cinder blocks on the bottom, wood panels on the top, tin roofs, a cement floor, and doors in the front and back. The Nicas must pay for the land, but the home is given to them provided someone from their family helps with the building process. We work on several homes at once, so we don’t necessarily work on our family’s home.

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Temporary homes in the village that people built until their new Project H.O.P.E. homes are complete

Throughout the week, in addition to building homes and relationships, we also talked with them about God and Christ. One of the awesome parts about it was that a lot of them were already Christians! After a couple of hours, we said good-bye to our family and went back to the base camp to clean up. I was covered in dirt from head-to-toe.

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I had a very obvious dirt line by the end of the day

We had a tasty spaghetti dinner (provided by Nica’s employed by Project H.O.P.E.). Nate, the youth pastor at Plaza Heights, provided music each evening, while Pastor Larry had really engaging services all week. We stayed up getting to know our new friends until about 10:30. I was really tired and slept better than the first night.

Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 1 (Travel)

Saturday, July 18 – Jerod and I said our good-bye’s to Lil’ Miss K (so hard!) and left her in the very capable hands of my mom, while my dad dropped us off at the airport late morning. We met up with our group, checked in to our American Airlines flight, and left Kansas City around 1.

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Jerod and I at the start of the trip

We had a quick 1-hour layover in Dallas, but it proved to be plenty of time to get to our connection. The flights were smooth until we got to Nicaragua, where a storm was passing through. Our seatbacks had screens with a flight map – so after a lot of turbulence and elevation loss and gain, we could see that our plane was going out into the ocean rather than landing in Managua. Come to find out, it was doing a loop to avoid the storm. Upon heading back to the city, we did three more loops before finally landing. I know at least one person had to use his airsick bag – it was definitely a rough 45 minutes.

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Our flight path into Managua, Nicaragua

Customs was similar to any other airport, except we had to pay a $10 entry fee to get into Nicaragua. Nicas picked up our luggage and transported them to the exit for us for a $1 tip. Because we got in late, we didn’t have time for Eddie, our bus driver, to drop us off at basecamp and get back to pick up the next group of missionaries, so we waited at the airport for what seemed like eternity. We finally got to basecamp around 10:30 (11:30 Kansas City time). We had a very quick meeting, then we finally got to eat cold pizza for dinner. We found our room assignments and tip-toed around to get settled, as an earlier group had already gone to bed. I was in a room with 3 other women (the room had 8 beds), and Jerod got to bunk in a large room with 14 other guys. But overall, the accommodations were extremely nice for being in a 3rd world country. We didn’t exactly have to “rough it” like my previous mission trip to Haiti. It was a long first day, and I went to bed excited for the next day!

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My accommodations for the week

Relay For Life – A Celebration of Hope

Friday night was my 6th annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life. I look forward to the Relay event every year, but for some reason, I was even more excited this year. From watching survivors walk the track, to a silent auction and fun on-site fundraisers, to a beautiful luminaria ceremony, I’m always crying and laughing by the end of the night. My 15-month old daughter had a blast running around the track and field – she didn’t crash until almost midnight! This year our team has raised just over $2,800 for the American Cancer Society, but of course we’re still accepting donations! I’d love to reach $3,000. Here is where the money goes.

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Kyleigh’s Gift 5k

This weekend we participated in a very special event – the first annual Kyleigh’s Gift 5k/3k Run/Walk. It was held in conjunction with National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in memory of Kyleigh, a baby who passed away unexpectedly during childbirth. The money raised goes toward a fund her family started to provide sleep sacks for each baby born at Liberty Hospital. It’s a cause near and dear to many people’s hearts – most of us know someone who has lost a baby or had a miscarriage.

On a more upbeat note – I loved the lively atmosphere with all the kiddos! Check out the photos below.

Best balloon animal ever.
Best balloon animal ever
A butterfly release to remember Kyleigh.
A butterfly release to remember Kyleigh
Kyleigh's parents and brothers.
Kyleigh’s parents and brothers
Adorable kid's fun run.
Adorable kid’s fun run
This cutie was more interested in my camera than the fun run.
This cutie was more interested in my camera than winning the run

Photo(s) of the Day: Running Pro

Baby K is getting the hang of this running thing, after three long Saturday morning runs in a row! A training run, Helen Gold 10k (for Parkinson’s disease), and Get Your Rear in Gear 5k (for colon cancer). Helen Gold was a chilly 46 degrees, so she was bundled up. Get Your Rear in Gear was much warmer, and as a bonus she got a flower from a face painter!

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Kei

Fighting Cancer One Step at a Time

Friday night was my team’s fifth annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life event. I walk the track and fundraise in memory of my aunt Jill and in honor of many other friends and family. This year was a bit different – juggling team captain responsibilities and taking care of a four-month old was a challenge at times. And I didn’t get to take nearly as many pictures as I would have liked. This year we packed up around midnight rather than walking until 6 a.m. But our strong and mighty team has still raised over $3,000, and we aren’t finished yet! There’s still time to donate to the cause.

Check out photos from 2013, 2012, and 2011.

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Cousin Samantha during the Opening Ceremony
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Cake pops – one of the team’s fundraisers
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My mom with Baby K, in their Relay For Life t-shirts
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Our team’s luminaria in honor or memory of loved ones
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Lighted HOPE sign at Relay For Life (zoom effect used)

Photo Essay | Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

I posted a photo of the Kansas City Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Monday. Now that I’ve edited the other 300, I wanted to share a few more to give you a sense of this fabulous event. Kansas City raised over $400,000 for the American Cancer Society this year!

My husband’s aunts have both unfortunately had to deal with breast cancer.
About 15,000 people participated in this year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.
Gathering for warm-ups and a ceremony before the walk.
A couple of the enthusiastic walkers.
A very spirited Making Strides Against Breast Cancer participant.
People walk to fight breast cancer with the beautiful Kansas City skyline in the background.
About to cross the finish line!
A Making Strides Against Breast Cancer banner flies in front of Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.