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!