We are back!!!

The final 10 days of our trip in Raleigh/Fuquay Varina flew by!  In 10 days, we had over 20 meetings, both church presentations and personal meetings with current and potentially new ministry partners!  We split our stay between two families who graciously agreed to host our family of 6 and we were so thankful that not only did it go smoothly, it was very life-giving for both us and our kids. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who met with us, hosted us, fed us, and prayed for us.

While there are so many things I love about having an 18 month old, flying, eating out at restaurants, sleeping in new places, and riding in the car long distances are not them. Case in point – on our return flight, after playing with Play-doh, eating 4 different snacks, watching two different types of TV shows, playing with the shape shorter, coloring, and going back and forth between her dad and I, Brynn was just done. Tired and done. Did I say tired and done?

She screamed for the last 15 minutes of our flight – not whimpered or cried on and off but screamed bloody murder complete with whipping of all body parts that could whip. People were holding their hands over their ears. People were staring. Mommy, who definitely struggles with people-pleasing and knows how bad people talk about those parents whose kid won’t stop screaming, was straight up embarrassed. When we got our chance to leave the plane, you can bet I was doing just that and fast-like. Ed grabbed my backpack, I jetted off the plane, and we met outside the gate. Thank you to the sweet people behind us who stopped outside the gate just to say that we did a good job with her and that anyone who is parents can understand and empathize and that those who can’t empathize can just get over it….your words helped calm my frazzled nerves a bit. We grab our bags at baggage claim (complete with me asking Ed “Did anyone from our flight see you and say anything to you while they were getting their bags”) and then wait for an Uber that can fit our massive load of bags (meanwhile the screaming baby is now asleep…couldn’t that have happened earlier?” and we head home.

Once home, I realize something major. I forgot to tell Ed to grab my phone which was in the back of the seat of the plane. Uh-oh. Big uh-oh. Like multiple hundreds of dollars uh-oh. We call, file a report, pray, but doubt we will ever see it again. Last night, Ed went to Apple to get me a new-to-me older phone and after getting it all hooked up today, we get a phone call. They found my phone!! Seriously!! Praise God!! Ed went back to LaGuardia today, picked it up, we returned the new one, and we are back in business.

It feels good but yet so weird to be back in the city after being gone a month. There was lots of complaining as we walked a mile to meet some friends at a playground today (gotta get used to city legs again) and as we all poured sweat in the heat and humidity that never seems to end. But I love playing at a park and looking around and realizing only one other mom looks like me. I love getting to interact with friends who have become so dear to me. I love being able to smile and wave at our doorman and hear him say “Hey, wait, you have been gone a long time – glad to have you back!”. I love hearing the honks, the trains, the ice cream trucks, the road construction. It feels so good to be home in this city that we are learning to love.

Differences

Coming back to SC and NC this summer, we haven’t experienced as much culture shock as we thought we would. But, here are a few things we have noticed that we haven’t noticed before (ok, maybe we noticed them but have seen them in a new light):

1 – There are so many trees and grass. Anyone that has been in the city for a while has this same reaction. But, it stuns me that this is ALWAYS our first thought. So. Much. Green.

2 – It is so quiet! Again, anyone that has been in the city for a while has this thought, but I honestly think sometimes “Is there anyone out there in the world? It is so stinkin’ quiet!” While the quiet has been nice, it makes our kids seem a whole lot louder!

3 – Riding in a car is so boring. Seriously, the first time Ed and I drove a long stretch with hardly any buildings and lots of trees, I thought “This is so boring and feels like it is taking forever.” What’s funny, we travel the same amount of time in the city to get places by riding on the subway or the bus, but you can multitask, watch the people, sleep, zone out, etc. which makes the time go so much faster!

4 – People talk and wave to strangers a lot! When we first got in at the airport, we were loading everything and everyone into my mom’s car and a lady started talking to Ed. I asked him “What was she saying?” He said “She was just talking.” I said “What was she talking about and saying?” He said “April, your forget this is the South and people just talk to you to be friendly.” Wow. In NY, if they are talking to you, it is usually to tell you what you are doing wrong. Even on a run around the neighborhood, I can’t count the number of waves from people I got….so weird!

5 – Where are all the people who aren’t white? Ok – I know this is a touchy one, but we are seriously used to being some of the only white people around, so it is weird to come here and not see people who don’t look like us. Or to feel like we are in the majority instead of the minority. I have actually struggled with this one the most since being back. I crave and love diversity now.

6 – These houses and lawns are so big! Compared to the tiny houses and NYC apartments, everything seems so big. I get that it is because housing is way cheaper here, but honestly, I don’t know if I would want to clean a place this big!

We are a little over two weeks into our month-long break and I can tell you that I feel like it has been a really good thing for our family. It has been great to be with friends and family, to have a little more downtime, to have more room for our kids to run and be loud, and it has been super encouraging to see God providing everything we need for our ministry to get us back to 100%. Seriously, I almost cried yesterday as I got overwhelmed with how God is providing for us. While starting up ministry partner development for the summer can be so intimidating, I love seeing God work, provide, and allow us to partner with others. Blown away!

Here are a few pictures from our last few weeks:

Enjoying my brother, sister-n-law, niece, and nephew-

When we traveled to Greenville, SC, we were excited to see Ed’s parents AND because our really good friends from Raleigh had just moved to neighboring Spartanburg. Spending time with them and their kids has been so life-giving. If you ever get a chance to find a friend like Jenn, hold on tight. She is intentional, direct, God-glorifying, kind, funny, and just a huge blessing in my life. I love having friends who feel like sisters! It is also a blessing that our kids love each other (the picture below is minus 3 kids!)

The kids have loved being able to read in daddy’s hammock (there are actually trees to hang it from!), wash the “cars”, and swim in pools. Ed has also enjoyed taking a break from working in our apartment or coffee shops, and actually getting to work outside!

And if you see Brynn in the next few weeks, please know that we do not beat our child. She has had a couple of nasty falls chasing after her siblings and she looks rough!

Please continue to pray for a great rest of our trip, for safety as we travel to Raleigh on Saturday, and for God to finish our team of ministry partners.

 

Traveling to the South

We made it to SC!!  What trip with the Hetzels would be complete without a little drama?

On the plane, I sat on the aisle with Brynn in my lap, the girls sat behind me, and Blake and Ed sat behind them. Across the aisle from me was a man in his 50’s (sitting by the window) and his middle-school aged son. The plane flight was going smoothly until we landed and at that point, I look over to the dad across the aisle and I notice that not only were his eyes closed, his head was hanging down and was very limp. I watched his son try to get his attention and the dad didn’t respond. At this point, the son and I both at the same time realize and voice that something is wrong. The boy alerts his mom who is sitting ahead of him, and she tries to get her husband’s attention. It took a few minutes but he finally opened his eyes and looked up, even though he didn’t lock eyes with her. Then, he locked eyes with her an then a minute after that, he was able to respond. When she asked him what had happened, he said “I don’t remember anything.” He said he was having a few chest pains, so we aren’t sure if it was a heart attack or fainting episode, but the EMTs met us at the plane and took him to the hospital to get checked out. Even when we were leaving, you could tell that he wasn’t back in his right mind. It was super, super scary watching someone not respond and having a medical episode. Crazy! The flight was so eventful that sweet Blake feel asleep on the drive home.

We have spent the week visiting/presenting/giving updates to churches and individuals who partner with our ministry, having appointments with potential new partners, seeing family, spending a few days with my parents at a campground in Myrtle Beach on vacation, and time enjoying doing and eating things that we only get to experience in the South. It has taken some adjusting to getting used to traveling by car again (Blake asked one night when we got back into the car “How many stops until we are there?”) and riding in car seats and we have really struggled with seeing so many people who look like us….we miss that about NYC….but overall, it has been a smooth transition and our kids are loving having space to run and be loud. Rather than walk through each picture, I am just going to post a ton of them and let you experience some of our week through pictures.

And then today, Ed got to cash in on his Father’s Day present from us and his parents – a voucher to go skydiving. Ed loves crazy, high, adrenaline-filled things (he is a 7 on the Enneagram if that tells you anything!) and so when we had a chance to get him something like this, we jumped on it. Needless to say, he was thrilled, loved the entire thing, and can’t wait to do it again. I will watch him every time but you will NEVER get me up there. Crazy man.

Please continue to pray for our trip here in SC and NC. We are trusting the Lord to get our ministry partner team back to 100% before we return and we have complete faith that God can do it – will you pray this with us too?

Ye of little faith

When we started this summer mission, I was very doubtful and nervous. Last year, we had 19 students and this year, we had 11. Last year, we were totally fine on budget and this year, due to 3 students dropping the week before the summer mission began, we were in the hole and had to make drastic budget cuts and decisions in order to even start the summer mission in the black. Last year, we were excited and trusting God for big things but this year, due to all the drama before the summer mission began, I was already worn out and so nervous about what the summer held.

It was like God said “Oh ye of little faith…see what I can do.” This year we ended up having only 14 less spiritual conversations than all of last summer (and that was with 8 less students/staff than the summer before) and having 11 people accept Christ! Praise God for how He moved in students’ hearts! We also came in under budget – which, if you knew the circumstances and details, is a HUGE miracle! Despite my nervousness about the summer, it turned out to be one of the best summers we have had here in the city. God did great things in our students’ and staffs’ hearts, as well as those we encountered. Here are some quotes we heard from the end of project:

  • I have grown more in 5 weeks than in 2 years of knowing Jesus. I learned about surrendering my life to Christ, learned about the Holy Spirit, learned about eternal perspective (never heard that before). Sharing my faith is as easy as sitting down with someone over lunch.
  • I can see how God grew me from  beginning to end. I can now share the Gospel, I feel capable and equipped – it doesn’t end here!
  • I came in not knowing my worth and now God has shown my worth to me.
  • I learned that our faithfulness and obedience has a continuous ripple effect beyond what we can see.
  • We saw God continually answer our prayers this summer. I learned to be obedient and spend significant time each day talking with God.
  • The Lord revealed to me the deep root of my pride, but in that He taught me about his deep love and redemption.
  • I learned that my identity is found in Christ and not in my works or my talents. I have learned to read the Word, enjoy Him, and experience intimacy with Jesus.

One of my favorite stories from the summer was hearing about Ronise making a decision to surrender her life to Christ. Ronise met Elise and Taylor in a busy area of campus at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. Ronise became so immersed in the conversation that it was like she didn’t even notice the swarms of people walking by. LaGuardia is a campus with heavy security in which we aren’t really supposed to be on the campus since we aren’t students, much less sharing the Gospel, so we try to lay low near the security guards. During the part where Taylor was sharing the Gospel with Ronise, the security guard “happened” (no coincidence!) to be distracted by something at the other end of the room and wasn’t watching them as they read Scripture and talked about placing your faith in Jesus. Taylor started crying as she heard Ronise’s heart and then watched Ronise pray a prayer to Jesus asking him to forgive her sins and make her a child of His forever – a prayer that lasted 3 minutes with her eyes closed and head down in a very busy intersection of campus. 

The Lord even started teaching me some deep truths this summer that I shared with the women on our summer mission and hope to one day share with you all, one day soon when I work up the courage to be open and vulnerable for everyone to hear. I am missing this group something fierce this week as it feels like our family (or at least it has been the last 5 weeks) is missing. Thank you for the significant part you played in 154 people hearing about Jesus, 11 trusting in Him for the first time, and our 22 students and staff growing deeply in their faith!

The question we get now is “What is next?” After summer mission ended last week, we rested over the weekend before we turned around and started heavily planning, making calls, making appointments, etc. to work on ministry partner development. We will travel to SC and NC over the next 4 weeks to have some R&R, visit our support bases, see current partners and churches and meet with potential new ones. Would you pray that God goes before us, letting us share with passion and vision about what God is doing in NYC and leading people to join our team in partnership to make this vision a reality? We are trusting God for a lofty goal but, as he taught us this summer, He can make it happen!

I couldn’t end this post without sharing pictures of our weekend and 4th of July. We spent last weekend letting the kids play in the sprinklers and have a picnic in Central Park and celebrating Emerson’s graduation from pre-school group at church to the older kids and then we spent fourth of July playing in Long Island City by the water, having a cookout with our small group friends, and then watching the fireworks with different friends from our roof. I have said this before, but watching the fireworks from our roof is the best thing ever. You can see fireworks going off around the whole city in all directions AND you get to enjoy them without all the loud bangs! Who needs to watch the Macy’s show on TV when you can watch it in person? The picture below doesn’t do it justice as you can barely see the fireworks on the right hand side of the pic, so just take our word for it.

And just for those who think Brynn will never get hair, check out this picture. And I think she may even have her mama’s curls. Its about time – the girls hair is wavy, but we need one of our 4 kids to have my ringlets. 🙂

Next check-in will be from the South!

NY SM Week 5!

Week 5 is in the books! My goal is to write a more in-depth post next week about the ways we saw God working this summer and what He did in our students’ lives, so let this just serve as a brief overview of our week, and not the final summation of the summer mission.

This week, we had our final staff meeting, had seminars for the students to attend (boundaries in relationships, transitioning out of college, and financial stewardship), walked the Brooklyn Bridge, took our group photo in Brooklyn, ate delicious pizza at Juliana’s in Brooklyn, went to campus for 4 days, had the last Bible study and discipleship appointments, ethnic dinner, had our staff banquet, and had our final celebration banquet with both staff and students. Which is actually going on right now, but due to a kid who got strep throat TODAY instead of waiting until project was over tomorrow, I am at home writing this post instead 🙁

Our goal for the entire project was not only for our students and staff to see God change, grow, and transform their own lives in significant ways, but that they would step out in faith to have good conversations and see what God was going to do on campus with other students through them. Our goal was that we would see 10 students place their faith in Jesus, and we are excited to say, we have ended our summer mission seeing 11 students place their faith in Jesus! Yay for answered prayers! We are so proud of our students and staff. I love seeing how far God brings them in having good spiritual conversations from the first week to the last….such growth! Here are the people who made decisions this week (minus Israel who didn’t feel comfortable getting his picture taken).

This girl below, was so sincere, and she prayed for like 3 minutes quietly to God (even with people constantly walking by in a busy area of campus) when she was asking Him to forgive her sins and begin a relationship with her.

Here is our complete project picture!

One of my very, very favorite parts of project (besides seeing God cause so much growth!) is that my kids get to regularly interact with staff and students who not only love the Lord, but who sincerely love on them. These pictures are just a few examples.

Here are a few pictures of our time eating at Juliana’s and taking pictures at the Brooklyn Bridge area.

Ed, thanks for being a great dad and husband even in the midst of a challenging, exhausting, and work-filled summer. You have served us well and this family wouldn’t function without you!

And this picture shows our amazing leadership team for the NYC Summer Mission. Meghan, Ellen, and Ed, thanks for making leading something this big and challenging and God-sized a great adventure and lots of fun. Thanks for your grace, truth, and hard work – we worked like dogs but had a blast in the process. I have loved no drama and lots of fun – it was a blessing from the Lord to work with ya’ll!

We spent some time of the weekend showing my cousin Makenzie around the city and visiting her “bucket list” places like Washington Square Park (where we saw an awesome performance by both some dancers and our kids 🙂 ), eating cookie dough at Do, and visiting Chinatown.

For our ethnic dinner this week, we had food delivered from a food truck called Makina Cafe. The really, really fun part is that Makina Cafe (specializing in Ethopian/Eritrean food) is owned and ran by my old college roommate (who was also in our wedding). I loved being able to give her business and taste her delicious food, but the ultimate best was being able to hug her sweet neck. So proud of you Eden!

The girls had their last day of school followed by a visit to the theaters to see “Incredibles 2”. They are going to miss their friends and teachers, but are excited for a more relaxed pace and time with us.

We had our nice staff dinner at a restaurant on the water in lower Manhattan overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Then, we headed to Chinatown to eat dessert at this place called Milk and Creme cereal bar, where you get ice cream mixed with cereal and toppings. Delicious! Little did we know, the night was going to get interesting. We had an incident on our train where a guy who were clearly impaired got in a couple of our staff guy’s faces and tried to fight them (at our stop, he got off the train and got back on while arguing with another guy so who knows what happened when they left our station)…having been here in the city for a while, it was a bit scary and I really thought the guy was going to attack them (which would have been crazy in a group with 4 guys and one of them having police training and one of the girls having a black belt in 3 forms of martial arts). Then, after dessert, we tried to get on a train but the station was filled with smoke, nasty smells, and nasty noises and we learned that a train was stuck on a track and there were no uptown trains going that way. We tried uber. We tried another train which went a few stops before getting stopped because there was an incident on the last train car and they needed to investigate. We tried uber again. And then, we finally ditched it all and took the Long Island Rail Road back to Queens. Talk about a crazy night and having issues getting home. I told Ed it had to be a full moon (which of course we can’t see in the city) and sure enough, I found out that it was.

Again, I would love to share more about what God has taught me this summer and what He has done in our staff and students’ lives, but thats a whole ‘nother post. Til next time!

SM Week 4

I cannot believe that we are almost done with 5 weeks of the NYC Summer Mission!  Week 4 felt more “normal”, whatever that means on summer mission 🙂 .

Our students and staff, knowing that days on campus are limited as we are nearing the end, decided that they wanted to challenge themselves to push hard and to trust God as they finish this race well. In order to do that, they have set a goal to initiate 25 spiritual conversations daily. It has been encouraging to see each group cheer on the others and to praise God that they have exceeded that goal EVERY SINGLE DAY! As a result of God opening up peoples’ eyes and hearts to the message of Jesus, 2 more students surrendered their lives to Jesus! Here are a picture of these two new sisters in Christ:

We are so proud of them and even in the midst of feeling burnt out and seeing the finish line on the horizon, they are continuing to trust God for big things here. At the beginning, we set a goal of seeing 10 people place their faith in Jesus this summer. With 3 days left on campus, will you pray God allows us to see that goal met as He changes their lives?

We also had other “normal” things this week – ethnic dinner at a Ukrainian restaurant, mens (pictures below) and womens (we totally dropped the ball on getting pictures) times where we talked about things that are specific to our own struggles (the women talked about surrendering every aspect of our life to Jesus), Bible study, staff meeting, church and serving time at the church in the kids classes’, extended time in the word and worship, family dinners at our apartments, and extended prayer and training times.

We are really enjoying our staff team this summer. Most of them (with the exception of Ellen who is from Boston) are from the South, which has been fun for us to talk about sweet tea, the ways of the South, and southern words, and feel understood 🙂  Saturday night, we went to something called The Night Market which is held behind the New York Hall of Science in Queens. The night market consists of all kind of ethnic food vendors (who change weekly!) who sell large portions for $5 so you can taste and savor food from all around the world. Every time, we try something new and every time, we LOVE everything we try. We were delighted to share this fun treasure of a place with our team (it only happens on Saturday nights during the summer). I had a delicious cocunut pancake with java palm sugar, Russian palmini and a Malaysian burger. After we all tried food, went back for more, went back for even more, oohed and aahed over all there was to offer, and enjoyed the cultural music, we walked over the the unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park where the Worlds Fair was held. Notice it from Men in Black?

Ed is such a trooper – after being diagnosed with a sinus infection, he had to wake up the next morning and run a 10K. He had to do it to qualify to run the NYC half marathon next year, so he couldn’t just back out without their being consequences, and with him recently running a half-marathon, this wasn’t hard, BUT STILL!

I was so excited that the kids and I could finally come and cheer him on – they had a blast watching and cheering on the runners (and getting a few high-fives) and I loved seeing an Ugandan man win the race (I love, love, love watching them run with no heavy breathing like they only ran one block and their stride is amazing!).

The girls only have 2.5 days of school left – today we had class parties and yesterday, Emerson graduated kindergarten! Yes, it is weird that they graduate and then have 3.5 day so school left, but I don’t make the rules 🙁 Here are pictures of our “not-so-little” girl. She is so spirited and sassy and a girly-girl (notice her necklace, dress, lip gloss, and high heels) and she has done so well in school this year and has made tons of friends!

Tomorrow, we are having staff meeting, hosting practical seminars for the staff (I am excited to lead one on financial stewardship and best practices), and then walking the Brooklyn Bridge and eating delicious pizza near the Brooklyn waterfront. And, another fun thing happening this week, my cousin (who is way more like my niece) just graduated high school and is here with us for the week. She loves NYC and we love having her join in with us!

Prayer that we would finish strong, that our staff and students would consider moving back to NYC on a longer basis (as interns or staff), and that God would help us start preparing with our next season of MPD in SC and NC. Excited to finish this project well – God still has big things in store!

SM Week 3

Shew ya’ll! I am feeling the uptick in our normal schedule and pace this week from project. Add in sickness (colds) for 4-5 members of our family (including a sinus infection for Ed) and it has made for an eventful week.

However, God is doing some amazing things on campus and amongst our students and staff. We have had some hard moments of conflict resolution amongst students which is always faith stretching. We have spent an extended afternoon processing with the women what it means to truly surrender our lives to Christ and even process some areas in our life that we haven’t wanted to or known that we needed to let go. We have had 193 spiritual conversations and seen 6 students begin a relationship with Jesus! We have had some really crazy and awkward moments, both in just normal life and on campus interacting with students.

Here are some pictures from the week:

These first two are students who made a decision to place their faith in Jesus – Brenda and Winston. The following pictures after that are just students/staff on campus having spiritual conversations and goofing around.

Last Friday, we went to Coney Island – to the beach during the day with the staff and then to the amusement park with the students and staff. It was fun getting to just enjoy life together and the plus side of it being a week day? No lines and way less people!

Blake and Kinsley enjoyed the slower rides and rode this train 7+ times – I lost count after 5! Emerson, however, cried because she couldn’t do all the big roller coasters with her dad. So funny how the Lord makes kids so very different! One of my favorite parts about project is our kids getting to be around other students and staff who love Jesus and love on them. They have lived in a constant state of excitement since project began and ask everyday who is coming over that night. Jonathan, one of our staff guys, took turns running after Brynn for me and I turned around to see the two of them laughing at the people on the log fume. Such a sweet picture!

We had ethnic dinner at a Caribbean restaurant (curry chicken is where it is at!) and then had a super eventful trip home as Ed and I got separated, miscommunicated on what subway stop we were going to meet at, AND he had my phone in the stroller WITH HIM. Thankfully, two gracious people let me borrow their phones to talk to him to figure out where to meet up, but lets just say my habit of getting separated from my phone didn’t make my husband too happy.

One evening, we had a family dinner at our apartment (yummy tacos and ice cream with all the toppings!) and another evening, we went to see the Broadway musical “Come From Away”. It is about people who got rerouted and stuck in Canada after 9-11. It has no intermission and goes for 100 minutes straight but it was absolutely fabulous. It was probably one of my favorites I have seen and was so well done. The actors were amazing!

I got to attend our annual meeting at church last weekend and was so encouraged to hear about our church’s vision for the next year, all the ways people are experiencing growth, and challenged to see this slide and be reminded (though I am reminded daily!) of why the Lord has us in NYC…if each borough in NYC were its own city, this is how they would rank with other cities in the US. As the new members went around and shared where they were from, I was amazed to learn that only about 15% of them are from here – the rest were from Puerto Rico (lots from here and we are thinking they came here because of the hurricane), South Korea, Hong Kong, Colombia, etc.

We also got to have a baby shower to celebrate a couple in our church small group who are having their first girl. We love, love, love our small group – we are so grateful to God for gifting us with people to read the Word with, challenge each other, pray with each other, celebrate each other, teach each other, etc. The guy with Blake is named Fady and he was one of the first guys in our group and when Blake met him, he just latched on.

And this kid? This week, she is killing me with her climbing, mess-making, and getting into everything!!  We have a microwave on an island in our kitchen and we turned around one day and she had climbed from the stool to the window to the microwave and was STANDING on it!  Many days I have found her in the sink with the water on and this day, she wasn’t just playing with the water in the toilet (which happens more often than I want to admit), but she was full in the toilet! Emerson prayed tonight that God would give me another baby girl in my belly and I told her that if he did, I am pretty positive I wouldn’t make it. 🙂

We have two more weeks of project left. Please pray for perseverance for us as we balance the last full week of school and the activities that come with that (class parties, appreciation breakfasts, kindergarten graduation) with project happenings. Please pray that students and staff would continue to push in and initiate conversations with students as they finish out the home stretch. Please pray that God would continue to use us to impact this city!

 

SM Week 2

Summer Mission Week 2 is in the books!  This week our students and staff settled into a more regular routine with going to campus every day, prayer morning, training more, extended time to study the Bible, Bible study, discipleship times, etc. Emilee, one of our students that came on summer mission with us last summer, wrote this on her Facebook account about her first week:

“My first full week back in the city has been a whirlwind, but it has also been so sweet being back in NYC! I am so thankful that the Lord brought me back here to do ministry again this summer. We went to campus three days out of the week, and the conversations we have had have been so encouraging! Already this past week, we saw two people give their lives to Christ! Y’ALL the Lord is moving here in amazing ways, and I am so excited to see how He continues to work as we go into our first full week on campus!!”

For me, I am not on campus with the students every day, but between keeping up with the finances for the summer mission and the NYC campus teams, being at 3-4 summer mission things a week, and doing all our normal life things here like school and mom’s group (things here go through June because school doesn’t end until the end of June), we haven’t had a lot of down time. However, this past Friday night, Ellen, a sweet friend who is also on summer mission with us, babysit our kids for us to go out on a date and connect with some friends AND then Saturday, because we had the day off, she went with our family to Central Park Zoo. It was a nice break (minus the frantic phone call to Ed that resulted in WAY more work for the weekend that there might be bed bugs at the hotel the students and staff are staying at – thankfully, there isn’t!!) and we were glad to have some family down time.

Check out pictures from this week:

The kids at Central Park Zoo and some of our favorite animals (Kinsley LOVES the Red Panda and at first we couldn’t see him at all and THEN, he came up the branch right in front of us for just a few minutes before he disappeared again – it was one of the best moments of her life 🙂 ).

This are some pictures of our students/staff eating lunch and sharing the Gospel on campus (the one with the water fountains and the view of the city is at Queens College and the other is at Columbia University).

For a fun social time, we (minus the kids and I because it was a weekday when they had school), went to Central Park to play games and hang out and then headed to Top of the Rock to view the city from up high. I am amazed every time I see these views.

Tomorrow, we are headed to Coney Island with the students and staff to enjoy the beach and amusement park and then Sunday, they will head to church to serve and worship Jesus. Then, the week starts over! Crazy to think there are only a few weeks left! We saw one girl trust Christ today at Columbia University – pray that the Lord continues to move in students’ hearts and that he uses our students to impact lives in NYC!

 

Only The Beginning….

Today marks exactly one week since our students arrived in NYC for the summer. It has been a busy, busy week for our staff and students as they got oriented to the city and navigating around, went through lots of briefing from the history of NYC to how to spend time in the Word to how to share their faith, did a scavenger hunt around the city, spent two days on campus sharing getting into spiritual conversations, went to our first Ethnic dinner at an amazing restaurant in Chinatown, had our first family dinner at a local apartment, spent time getting to know each other, and so much more! Here are a few of the students and staff joining us this summer:

We have loved meeting them, hearing their stories, and watch how amazed they are with this city (and how tired from navigating it) and it is so fun to think that in 4 weeks, they will be radically different. As the staff were sharing about our week this morning, it was fun to hear the staff who paired up with students who were here last year (3 students came back this summer who were here last summer!) talk about how fearless and confident and faith-filled those students were as they went on campus for the first time this week. It is just such a reminder that ALL of our students will be like this by the end, Lord-willing.

And some fun, fun news! This week, our team went on different campuses like Columbia, NYU, and LaGuardia Community College on Wednesday and Thursday this week and both days, someone in our group saw a student place their faith in Jesus. The first day was a guy named Gabriel at LaGuardia Community College and the second was a girl named Joscelyn (pictured below) at LaGuardia Community College. Now, we will attempt to meet up with them regularly, helping them to grow in their new faith and get plugged into Christian community through a church.

Students spent time reading their Bible and journaling this morning and then we have a student social in Central Park and at Top of the Rock (seeing the city from way high up!) this afternoon. Then, they and the staff (who have been here 10 days now) get a much needed Saturday and Sunday morning off/free. Here are a few fun pictures of their time so far in the city – the first few are the scavenger hunt they did in the city.

5 people squeezed into the back of a taxi cab!

22 people squeezed into a small NYC apartment! Prayer walking around NYU!

Eating our first Ethnic dinner in Chinatown!

Our kids are loving that project has started – they feel like they have 21 new best friends to play with!

While it is hard to balance project responsibilities with the girls in school and real life continuing for us with church and friends, we are enjoying our staff team and students and are excited about what God is going to do this summer. Thanks for your prayers and support!

This City

I turned on the news this morning while Ed was taking all kids to the bus stop (bless him, Jesus) and was listening as they talked about Harvey Weinstein turning himself in at a NYC police precinct. I just finished watching a TV series that was based solely on NYC socialite life. In the past 2 weeks, I have had 4 Facebook friends visit NYC. Another show I watch just had a reunion in NYC. As I walked to a mom event in the city last week, I walked down Fifth Avenue past Trump Tower and the armed guards and once again reminded that not only does our current president own the building, he has made his home there for as long as anyone can remember. I heard from a friend in another city that when her parents came to visit, they met in NYC because this is where their family wanted to visit. I have friends, or know people, who do everything from working for the United Nations for their country (Indonesia) to working for the Manhattan District Attorney, to designing the main gown/costume for Elsa on Broadway, to working with sex trafficking victims at a medical clinic, to owning a food cart that made an appearance on “Good Morning America.” I am reminded daily of the influence that NYC has in our culture, our country, and the world.

We just finished our first full year on campus, our first full year solely on the Queens team, and we are begun our second summer mission here in NYC. As I spent some time this week reflecting on all of this, I was hit was an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. It still feels unreal at times that we really live here, that we sold most everything we own and downsized into a small apartment, and that God provided for us to live and invest in this city that is so influential. While there are for sure lots of things about living here that are super, duper hard, overall, I am super thankful.

I am thankful for an amazing staff team who feels like family and who are a blast to do life and ministry with (how can we be apart for 2+ months this summer?!?). I am thankful that we have seen God do really cool things in ministry this year – a year that has been full of learning, trying new things, failing, succeeding, learning some more, frustrating moments, and then moments where we see God’s hand oh so clearly. I am so thankful for ministry partners who have been faithful to give, encourage, pray for, and invest in what God is doing here in NYC. I am thankful for an amazing church where we feel encouraged, challenged, poured into, empowered, and where our kids LOVE to go and learn about Jesus. I am thankful that this church was a significant part in Kinsley coming to faith and getting baptized this year. When I think about how lonely I felt even a year ago, I am thankful for friendships with people of all different backgrounds and cultures, and for a few of these friendships which have gone deep and have allowed me to be loved and known. I am thankful for a few of my friends who don’t live here but because of the distance, we have had to become even more intentional with each other and I feel like I know them better and am more connected with them now than ever before.

I am thankful for lots of adventures we have had as a family this year and the experiences our kids have gotten to have that they would not have had if we lived somewhere else. I am thankful for great conversations I have been able to have with friends who don’t know Jesus and that God has challenged me by placing me in a place where I can count on two hands the number or believers I know (outside of our church) and would need 10 hands to count the number of non-believers I know. I am so very thankful for how God has grown me in understanding and relating to people of different cultures and backgrounds – wow, it would take me all day to elaborate on this. I am thankful that Ed and I’s marriage is stronger here than it has been before and I think our location has a lot to do with that. I am thankful for the immense ways the Lord has sanctified me, taught me so much about myself and others, and drawn me closer to Him – again, so much I could elaborate on here.

Again, I could probably list as many hard things as good things, but today, and for this week, I am choosing to be thankful. I don’t know if we will be in NYC for 4 more years, or forever, but I do know that God 100% knew what He was doing moving us here.

Our staff for the NYC Summer Mission arrived Tuesday, wide-eyed and not really sure what to expect spending the summer in this city that never sleeps. We spent Wednesday and Thursday casting vision for reaching this city, spending time getting to know each other, walking through our schedule that we will jump into next week, and spending significant time in prayer for our students and the campuses we will be working with. The students arrive today and then things will be off and running. Pray that not only is God glorified and His name made known here in NYC, but pray that they fall in love with this city as much as we have.