Saturday, August 30, 2008


We are a house of sickies this week. I don't know where the bug originated, but it definitely bit, jumping from one of us to the next. Which has given me an opportunity to socialize with our new computer, difficult for this tech challenged woman. I never realized that my template has been going nuts! Not sure really what to do with it all, sorry. We have watched a zillion or so movies. And tried to do everything from within the reach of the couch.

So we have decided something. We are going to Africa for two weeks in February! Big surprise.. eh? So as most of you know, we have been going through a midlife crisis since well, maybe a year ago. The whole Des Moines situation originated it. It sounds like watergate or something, hehe. I guess it made us realize that giving up anything for Christ sometimes means your own logical plans. We never know what's around the next corner, any one of us. Since the situation, or the scandal, or the breaking point, hehe, God has changed our thought process in about every way. You already got an earful in the previous post on politics. And just so you know: we could so live in an rv for a year with five kids, Gus, and Chumley. We could. See what I am saying about midlife crisis?

It all started just weeks after we decided that we wouldn't take the job in Des Moines. If I told most people that God spoke to me in the shower, they would source it back to high school. But see, your not normal people. Your blogging people, and since most of you know me in the real world, and you know how nuts I really am, you'll understand. So- here we go: I was just taking a shower, thinking about, well taking a shower. And the word "Uganda" struck my mind. And all I could think about was Uganda. Where is Uganda? What about Uganda? What a fun word...

Try it with me, slow and deep, UUUgaaannda.

Ok, so I am loosing you again.

That's when things started to get crazy. Josh jumped on the wagon, which made things 1000xs more crazy. Did I tell you that the kids are learning Swahili in school this year? haha. Ailah has been running around calling Chumley "Paka". Which is cat- see, you may actually gain information from this post!

And so, the middle of February we are going to Uganda. Why? That's where things get hairy. And if I were going to be the type of person who didn't lay things out there, I wouldn't tell you. But then there is the whole last post. I could tell you that it's a missions trip. And it is in a way. Or a conference, cause it is. Or that we are going to hang out at orphanages. And that we get to meet one of the daughters that we sponsor. But am I really being transparent?

Disclaimer: God alone knows.

But we are praying about spending a few years in Uganda. Hum.

And you all say. Wow, I never would have guessed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Each time that any one of us team members would say her name, we would have a big grin across our face. Marina was the most influential person I met in Bulgaria. She about made me pee my pants at first. She intimidated me with her gruff loud voice and how forward she was. She was the one that decided wimpy me in flip flops couldn't play soccer at the orphanage with her and her boys. Later I realized, she spared me my life.

Little by little she won my heart. With each instruction, I noticed her genuine and transparent love for each of the boys. Watching how they responded, in laughter with and at her, but with the utmost respect. She had earned it side by side with them. I watched her selfless commitment in coming to the gyspy villages and other orphanages with us. I wondered how many times it took her to learn more than just each of their names, but who they were.

I soon found out her role in the church in Bulgaria. How behind the scenes her leadership is foundational. At camp, she was responsible for accounting for everyone. At she did so thoroughly, dancing until four each morning, up at seven singing karaoke with the roma. I think about leadership ideals in America. And I think about Marina. Her training, her calling, is to be who God alone calls her to be in the very fashion God created her to be- Marina. Marina's past could entrap her, and I am sure at times it does, but she really believes that Jesus is the key, and He has set her free, and more importantly, she is who God created her, good and bad- Marina.

What did God show me in Bulgaria, personally? Honestly, He is still jacking with my heart. Sometimes I feel like a bad boob job- wondering why I am being so fake. Why I feel that I can't say "boob job" on my blog. It is my blog. I mean as Christians, we should be happy with who God created us as, without stitches and tucks. But how often do we look and others and say, oh how I wish that I was just a little more calm like she is? Snip snip.

If I were to truly go naked in the world, would it matter? What drives me anyway? Or who? Sometimes I just really long to sit in a coffee shop naked (and to be completely clear.. no not physically) and really be who I am with people that are completely totally different from me, for the sake of simply community.

Well, I probably lost you all, all three of you. If not, how about some more transparency:
hum, what about politics? Hehe, the feelings that arise in the word "politics." I hate them. I really know nothing about them, except I think that everyone's got an agenda. And it seems in the passion of politics, that real people are lost. I realize that there is a need for politics, and they arise everywhere, including the church. But the line that is created isn't worth it to me. And yes I have opinions on issues, I care, but I have beaten them back and forth with people, and it's been destructive, which to me, seems to be worse than the issue.

Ok- I'll stop, and save religion for next time.. or maybe just go hit Starbucks, hehe.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?

James 2:5

Saturday, August 23, 2008

question of the day:

If Adam and Eve wouldn't have sinned, would we still have to take baths?
Bummer Noah, sin is a done deal.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gypsy Village 2

This village had a church established and seemed to be fairly strong. Pastor Harold from Montana delivered the Word and Josh was able to share his testimony. It was amazing to hear each member of our team's testimonies in God's timing, He seemed to take it and fill it to reach the hearts we were ministering to.
From the moment we arrived my heart was drawn to the men in front of us. They didn't come forward during prayer but I could tell that God was doing something in their hearts. It was a moment of conflict for me, especially since they were men. I looked at Tammy and she at me. In her eyes I could see that God was laying them on her heart as well. I think that Satan has many of the men in bondage to various things and lies. But for two American women to come and lay their hands on them, we had to be sure that it was God. As we finished praying, their eyes were etched in my heart. Us without speaking a word of Bulgarian, and them without understanding a word of English. Just a tiny moment of the trip, yet God values their significance so greatly in His story.After prayer, we headed outside with bags full of Bazooka Bubble gum. And no, I couldn't translate the Bazooka song very well, I threw in the towel, but the jingle is in your head isn't it? This sweet mommy came up to me. Many times in the gypsy culture, there are arranged marriages and for girl many times it is as young as 14 or 15. It was hard sometimes to give the babies a treat, when you want to love on the parents just as much. I gave a piece of gum to a young girl, intending it to be for herself. She immediately placed it in her babie's mouth. Paranoid, I know, but I could see her choking and gagging on that hard round pink chunk of whatever it really is and all I could think is: we are in the middle of nowhere, and I just gave a baby a piece of bazooka gum!

After many choking signs, heaving, hands on my throat actions, trying to show her that she needed to give him a small piece, and sounding like a horse saying neh, neh neh, an interpretor finally came by. Praise Jesus. But she and her baby, and her close friend amused by my paincking state, became for a few moments my sisters.

I seriously can't wait to meet our huge family in eternity.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Small Fry

Isn't this just the cutest little guy ever? As soon as we arrived in Stara Zagora, he was there to greet us. Adorable and cleaver. We were told that many of the street kids and elderly begging usually had a pimp of some sort around the next corner, taking what they were given. They get somewhat of a high off the excitement of meeting new people and receiving gifts and thus would continue on the street if we fed into the problem. But, we couldn't help but love him.

Almost everyday he was there to greet us with this little grin. Some times with his friend, some days with a smoke, one day even being literally kicked out as a stray animal.

Somehow he started calling Nick monkey man complete with the sounds and gestures of a monkey... that one still stumps me, I think I missed something. For a week he wore a stinky sweater in 90 degree weather, covering the cigarette burns on his young skin.

The back of our hotel had couch like chairs and a restaurant outside. Here we would meet to talk, pray, do devotions, and he would stand next to us through it all. He spoke a little English, including "thank you" very clearly. We tried to share Jesus with him through our touch, our actions, and did a rather bad drawing of the resurrection.

But mainly we just prayed. Each time that we gave him five, or touched his matty hair, we prayed for his life, that God would orchestrate his days. That he would know how loved he is. That he would be a man that stood firmly on truth, that he would really know Jesus, that He would recognize His voice from an early age and follow it passionately. That He would be a fire for his generation. Perhaps someday coming to our country sharing the love of his savior.

We as humans want to measure. Measure the success of a missions trip, of a service, of the numbers that laid their life before Christ, the numbers that were healed, or filled with the Spirit. But so much is left unseen. In the unmeasurable we find eternal, seeds that only Christ can mature, and so is my prayer for this incredible little man.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gyspy Village 1

So most of the Roma or gypsy culture in Bulgaria is treated as outcasts. There are many emotions with the Bulgarian people in regards to them and the history on both sides has issues. After communism, many people living in small villages or in the country went to work in the larger cities, leaving the elderly and many of the villages unoccupied. This left a place for the Roma to call home, much of it in bad conditions.

Here they have their own world, poor but I found full of joy
and very much alive. The church is trying to break into both cultures and unite the two worlds
in Jesus. They have planted many churches and
are in the beginning of many more.

The first night that we arrived in Bulgaria, on our way to the hotel, we stopped in this village. The church is just beginning to develop. The conditions here we found were one of the best villages, many of their homes made from concrete of some sort. It is very common to have a horse and wagon, and one day some young men tried to race our bus, they were booking right along.

I made the mistake of showing the kids the church camera at the beginning of the service. But they stole my heart.

Our mission transfered in our hearts from Bulgaria to Bulgarians, from a mission to simply loving God's people, and them returning to us love greater than we could comprehend.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Boys' Orphanage

This was one of my most treasured days on the trip. We went to a boys home in the city of Stara Zagora. Structurally, it was very much what you would picture an orphanage in a previously communist country to look like. But somehow the Spirit of oppression was not with these young men. They were filled with joy that poured out and although we came to minister to them, they ministered to each of us.

Not to mention they played a mean game of soccer, on asphalt! They wouldn't let me play, I think it was obvious that I am a weeny. So I played with two younger boys. They did me in. Exhaustion couldn't devour the desire all three of us had to claim the moment to the fullest, the few hours our lives intertwined until the kingdom of heaven. I wished that my boys could have been there.

This is Cara. She leaves for college today, I miss her already. She was such a gift to all of us. The little guy in the pink onesie was just a hoot, he would be playing the games then abandon them start running around full of life without a care or concern. We could truly see Jesus' hand upon them and through each of them.

This was Josh's pal. He was just about ready to be leaving the orphanage. He could speak a little English!! He was very gentle and God had given him wisdom beyond his years.

The girl in the blue stripped shirt's name is Marina. We first met her here, but she has grown to become a dear sister in Christ. I've got to devote an entire post to her!! She knew each of the boys personally and wasn't going to let the Americans beat her boys at soccer, not that we had a chance.

If this day was our only day in Bulgaria, it would have been a gift. Driving away, the boys waiving and running along our bus, I knew that God did such a work in each of our hearts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bananas and Jelly Fish

In the past two weeks, we have witnessed many moments when God has moved. I have so many that I want to share with you, but this one can't wait.

In an afternoon of free time on the beach, it what seemed like an awesome opportunity to unite brothers and sisters in Christ, we took off flying across the black sea on top of a big inflated banana, Pastor Marvin, Nick, Tammy, Josh, Cara, and I.

It wasn't me really. It was Tammy's fault. She kept telling the jet ski driver to go faster and faster. The crazy woman, braver than most. I cried, I pleaded. I hit her. But with my screaming, the faster it went. Then from behind, the first victim. Nick flew through the air. We immediately slowed down. He signaled to us that he had survived. Then we saw them. Sisters and brothers, cousins, aunts, uncle: a big ol family of jelly fish. Every direction we looked.

Suddenly, we knew we had to get our brother down out fast. He bravely climbed aboard. He was a survivor, with only a small sting. Relief flooded us.

I am not sure if our driver knew that we couldn't communicate with him and in amusement knew he could simply got a chuckle from us ignorant Americans, or if he innocently and unintentionally flipped our banana. But when taking off again, he wrapped the rope under our safe floating fruit. Then gunned his throttle. Within a few moments, we were all plummeting into the sea. Into the jelly fishys.

If I hadn't ever related to Dori from Nemo before, I did at this moment. Our bodies stiff, trying to float above them. Just keep floating, floating. They were everywhere, and we were scattered among them, big and little, hundreds of them. We were like a banana split scattered in a bunch of sprinkle toppings.

But God was faithful and delivered us all back safely to our yellow refuge. And we flew across the sea back to the beach. Tammy in disappointment that the ride was over, me in relief. Don't let her sweet spirit fool you, she is crazy indeed!! What an adventure.

Tomorrow we begin the trip to come home, traveling to Sofia and Friday flying home. Thanks for all of your prayers and love, see you all soon!!

disclaimer: i am without spell check, so pretend like you didn't see it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Does it make sense to have internet access in a tent?? Apparently, it doesn't rain much here.

Notes to one's self:
1. Toliet paper is good
2. Squatting is not as much fun as it sounds
3. Communists don't know squat about hotel construction
4. Ben would freak out at the electrical code- or lack thereof (only josh would notice)
5. Wasps don't fry in 230 volts
6. Salt water is really salty
7. Speedos rock. Well, not really.
8. I can't wait to start youth and actually talk to the kids!!!

Good night.
Good morning from the black sea.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hey everyone!!! We are in Starra Zagora!! The count has been on for so long, and here we are a week into the trip!! I could write a book about the things that God has been doing and showing us. I think the hardest has been wrapping our arms around the children and rubbing their sweet faces, and then having to say good-bye. Knowing that we may never see them again until the kingdom of Heaven. Be prepared for many many pictures of the most beautiful children, the biggest brown and sparkling green eyes!! Tomorrow we travel to the black sea to run a youth camp. Camp on the Black sea, Shanda- you need to come!!!

Pastor Marvin celebrated his birthday. I don't think we were the same as having his wife and family to celebrate with!! But we did rig him up a cake, sort of. Note to self: learn Bulgarian, cake vs. boxed cake mix.

Homesick?? Josh really really wants a burrito from Pablos with extra beans and Hy-Vee breakfast. You can pray. We both miss five crazy little kids, but know that God has them covered.

Be prepared for our return. Much of our communication is now done through grunts, drawing, and charades. Evolution?- Bah!

Thanks for your prayers and love!! Dobervecher!! Chow, chow!! ~mel and josh