Hello everyone in Xanga land! I am back from Chile. Here is how my trip went, day by day.
Friday March 10th:
We leave for the airport bright and early. We get on American West to fly to Los Angeles. When we arrive in LA we are getting on a different airline (LAN) to fly to South America. According to our ticket, we arrive in Los Angeles on time to the minute. It takes us about a half an hour to get over to LAN airlines. We walk up to line and started wondering why A.) We were the only people there and B.) The LAN ticket agents were looking at us twelve ladies in matching red shirts weird.
According to LAN they would not let us on the flight because our plane was late and their aircraft had already left. Did I mention that LAN only has two flights a day that fly to South America and we had just missed the last one? Okay, I calmly tried to explain to the LAN guy that according to our ticket, we where not late. He then stated that you need to give yourself at LEAST 3 hours when flying internationally. What?! I didn’t know that. I had to walk away from him, because I was on the verge of losing my patience. Okay, no biggie, we shall call our ticket agent. She didn’t seem to remember that little detail about the time. While talking to her (I knew I brought that stupid cell phone with me for a reason), the LAN people proceeded to pack up their ticket counter. They took down their signs and left for the day. It’s like they never even existed and they left us (12 women, two of which are teenagers and one who is pregnant, and one with little patience- me) standing there with no solution. We are basically stuck in LA. The ticket agent suggests that we go back to America West to see if they can help in any way. Nope, no luck there. They proceeded to tell us that we had an illegal (YES, illegal! Did I mention that we got these tickets through church?) tickets and they would not help us. They talked to our lovely travel agent and proceeded to tell her it was her fault (which it was) for issuing an illegal ticket. The ticket was illegal because of the time span between flights and it not to be issued that way. She kept saying “Well it’s not my fault; the computer let me do it.” Ummm…hello? You are supposed to know this stuff so it is your fault.
The travel agent suggested that we go to the actual LAN ticket office which is not even in the airport. So Mae and Heidi hopped in a cab and left the rest of us at the airport with 24 bags to watch. They left at 4:30, the LAN office was supposed to close @ 5 p.m., but they were gracious enough to try to help us figure everything out. After 4 ½ hours of compromising and $3200.00 later, all 12 of us had tickets to get on a flight on Sunday, March 12th. While we were trying to get that settled the travel agent got us reservations at the Best Western as we would be spending the weekend in Los Angeles. Best Western was nice enough to reserve the rooms with a credit card and said to call him when we were ready and he would have the courtesy shuttle van pick us up at airport. About 9 p.m., we finally were ready to go to the hotel. I called and said, “We might need more than one bus, as we have 12 women, and 24 bags (each girl took one personal bag and one ministry bag).” I know he heard me because he said “24 bags???” He said he would send someone to pick us up. So the guy gets there and freaks out because the hotel manager didn’t tell him there was 12 women and 24 bags. He only thought there was one. Poor guy! He took like three of us and loaded up as much baggage as he could. Okay there are two Best Western’s by the airport. One is Airport and one is Airpark. Well they took us to Airport one. The poor guy (I really felt sorry for him) unloaded the whole van, only for the hotel to tell me they didn’t have a reservation for us. HUH? You have got to be kidding me! She called; Airpark and they have the reservation for us. You should have seen the look on the van driver’s face. Okay finally got to the hotel and had to shell out $630.00 more dollars for 3 hotel rooms for two days. We wound up ordering a large amount of pizza and eating the day away.
For some reason some of my guy friends decided to call me that night and I was getting some serious razzing from the ladies about them all calling me in one night (Travis, Reed, Adam, and Mark). Honestly, if I was at home, they wouldn’t have called!
Saturday, March 11th:
Okay, spending the day in California. I have never been there before, so we decided to rent a van and go see the coast. We saw Huntington Beach and ate at Fred’s Mexican Grill. Yummy food by the way! It was super windy and cold, so we hopped in the van and drove down to Newport Beach. By that time it was sprinkling, but we braved the weather and went over to Balboa Island. It was pretty cool, I enjoyed my California trip. Came back and ate left over pizza from the night before. Life is good and we are getting on that plane tomorrow. We couldn’t figure out why God wanted us in California for two days, but we did some serious praying.
Sunday, March 12th:
Okay, got on the plane and flew for a very long time! Stopped in Lima, Peru, but we didn’t get off the plane.
Monday, March 13th:
Arrived in Santiago, Chile about 7 a.m. Legs are sore from sitting so long (it’s about 13 hours). We arrive in baggage claim (an hour later, we had to get Visa’s, go through Immigration) and I hear “Hola, Brandy!” I look up and I see Yolanda (she is in charge of Women’s Ministry at El Faro, the church we are working with), Susanna (Children’s Ministry) & Hal (one of our missionaries). We get to the church, drop off our ministry bags and head to our families house to freshen up (I guess we were pretty funky after flying for so long) and then we are off to see Santiago. Hal works with IberoAmerican Ministries (IAM) and he took us on a tour of other churches in Maipu that are under IAM. It was amazing to see God’s hands at work with these other churches and how they are influencing different communities. We went to a school in one of the poor neighborhoods. The school wasn’t big, but it was a Christian school and the kids were taught about Jesus as well as normal school activity. They love to see the “Gringas”. That is what the Chileans call us (out of love, they say). I decided at the moment that I needed to become fluent in Spanish, get my teaching degree, and come back down there. I want to work there! The lady who started the school explained how God had provided for her to be able to start this school. It gave me goose bumps.
After touring the different churches, we had lunch. YUMMY! It was awesome, meat and potatoes. Okay, full tummies we headed out to see Santiago. I know having a tour day on a mission? Hal has started doing that so we can learn about the city and culture. It made for a long day, as we covered a good portion of Santiago that day by foot!
During the day, I somehow inherited another “gringa”. I now have 12 heads to keep track of. Lindsay is from Texas and happen to be down this week exploring the missions’ field. She was awesome and she can speak more Spanish then I can!
Tuesday, March 14th:
We spent all day at Casa de Esperanza (House of Hope). This is for the kids in the neighborhood that we ministered to. In Chile, the kids only go to school for half the day. You either go in the morning or afternoon. HOH provides a place to go during the time they are not in school. It keeps them off the street and they are able to get a hot meal. For some of the kids it’s the only thing they will eat all day. Most of their parents are alcoholics or drug users and don’t care for their children. HOH provides guidance and lots of love! The plan while we were there was to make sugar cookies with them and decorate them. Smidgy of a problem, the recipe we had was in English and the measurements are different in Spanish. So…we improvised and kept adding stuff until the dough tasted somewhat decent. We figured the kids wouldn’t care about the cookies as they will be loaded with frosting, etc.I got to visit with Elesio (he’s the little boy I used to sponsor; Sheri’s mom now has him). I even got to have lunch with him. He’s such a big brother, his younger sisters, Catalina & Camilla come to HOH also; he was making sure his sister’s needs were met before his. Most of the day was spent just playing with the kids and loving on them. I had a sick team leader on my hands. She was the first…
Wednesday, March 15th
We spent the morning, preparing for the Women’s retreat (which occurred Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). We made decorations and prepared crafts for the upcoming nights. During lunch, Sue asked the big question to Yolanda and Susanna….what do you need spiritually and physically so we can pray for you. Now, I knew there was some problems down in Chile, but I had no clue what was happening. Both women stated that they weren’t happy and were emotionally drained. Both are looking to leave the church after the retreat that we were planning. A little info about this church, there are no paid staff, they are all volunteers. The people they do have on staff are limited, there is less than six. The church has been struggling for a long time as it was started and funded by someone who worked for IberoAmerican. He has since left and the money he put into the church completely ran out in December. The church is in a neighborhood that is stricken with drugs, alcohol, gangs, incest, abuse, etc. Susanna started sobbing hysterically stating that her family doesn’t want to leave the church, but she and Yolanda were at their wits end. Susanna and Yolanda both said they can’t meet the needs of everyone in the neighborhood as they are only one person. After they talked to us about losing faith in God, we all sat down and prayed for them, the church, and the neighborhood. It was an emotional prayer time, although the Chilean’s couldn’t understand English, they sat and prayed with us. At that moment, language had no barrier.
In the afternoon was our Chilean Adventure Day. We were given a list of stuff that we had to go buy. We were to get on a city bus, go to the plaza (big shopping center, with different stores, almost like a strip mall) and we were to buy certain things. It was almost like a scavenger hunt and we were to see what life is like as a Chilean woman. We did have Chilean women with us, but they were not allowed to help us in any way. The women stayed outside the store and we had to go in and order different things that would make us use our language (or lack there of). It was fun, although I wished it lasted longer. One of my team members got off the bus before the rest of her group and found herself alone. She freaked out and so did Susanna. They were both crying. Everything turned out okay. It became a running joke that every time I turned my back, one of my girls was crying.
Thursday, March 16th:
First day of the women’s retreat. We spent the mornings doing last minute lesson changes and crafts. Thursday is the Feria, which is a huge swap market that parks right in front of the church. We printed up invitations to the retreat and passed them out in the Feria to the women. We all had invites and the Chilean’s told us what needed to be said, “Tengo una invitacion para ti.” After passing out the invites, we then knocked on doors in the surrounding barrio inviting women to come to the retreat. Don’t worry about your kids, bring them, we will take care of them! Here is when we saw how bad the poverty was. Some of the girls got upset and started crying because they had never seen anything like that before. We passed by a door, Susanna said we would not knock on it because there was really bad people living there. I couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t knock. So as we passed by the second time, I took an extra invitation I still had and rolled it up and stuck it in there door. Hey! I’m trying to plant a seed! I don’t know if they came or not. My team members did lessons on Bible Basics, Self Worth, and Prayer. We also did a lot of crafts, they love crafts. I had another team member sick.
Friday, March 17th:
Second day of retreat. We went to more doors and invited more people. We all took a chance and ate some sort of fruit off the tree, it was pretty good. I have no clue what it was.Came back and did a prayer walk around the neighborhood. My group didn’t get very far; we just went to the park and prayed for a spiritual awakening. I spent most of the night caring for the little ones upstairs so their moms could enjoy the retreat. I was able to come down for a little bit. There was the cutest baby, Martin, there. I asked his mom if I could hold him, she said sure. I sat down with him and was playing Peek-a-boo. I was trying to shush him because he was laughing so hard at me. Lol, he was the cutest!
My team members did lessons on Worship, Quiet Time, Friendship, Evangelizing, Stumbling Blocks and Family as well as more crafts.
Mae did the stumbling blocks lesson and had everyone write down on a piece of paper what they are struggling with and what is keeping them from God.
Saturday, March 18th:
Final preparations for the retreat. I know we did a lot of preparations! The Chileans are famous for changing things very last minute!
We spent more time in prayer for the neighborhood and church. We sat down and prayed over the stuff the women had written down. We didn’t look at them, no need to. God knows what they are struggling with.
Again, I spent most of the time upstairs with the children. It’s hard trying to keep them occupied and to discipline them when you don’t speak Spanish very well! I did my lesson on spiritual gifts, then we did finding God’s will and doing what you love (Sweet Spot), Missions, and to top off the night, we did Victory in Christ speech. We offered an invitation, although no one came down. That’s okay. God needs to work on their hearts, and they might not be ready to commit to Christ yet. Again, God will work it out in our own time. The end of the retreat was emotional as usual. They pulled all the ladies on my team up front, and then the Chilean women circled us and lifted us up in prayer. Very emotional!
Sunday, March 19th:
Last day in Chile. We had breakfast with our families and the headed out to church. The worship was absolutely beautiful! Ah, the greeting time is so much more different than Central. Their greeting time takes about 20 minutes. You have to go around and kiss everyone on the cheek! It’s fun trying to remember who you have greeted!
Rochelle gave her self worth lesson again to the whole church. Sue was scheduled to do the sermon. From what I heard she did her “White Horse” sermon. Again, I missed it, because I was upstairs with the kids. That’s okay. I love kids, and I’m the team leader. So I missed out on some things to build relationships with the ninos. No biggie.
Susanna grabs my hand and we run back into service just in time for them once again to call us up to the front of the church to present us with lighthouse statues. The name of the church is El Faro, which means lighthouse in Spanish. They sang Friends from Michael W. Smith to us in Spanish. Yeah, I love that song and life is so good! All week long I have been saying that I didn’t want to leave, the same thing I said last year. Yeah, I feel God has got some plans for me there.
After church, we run to the store to pick of 40 (yes, 40) containers of Manjar. Yes, it’s the absolute best stuff on earth and I did a manjar run for almost everyone on the team. Went home, had lunch with our families, packed up, and headed to the airport. We took a school bus to the airport and it was packed with Chilean people wanting to say goodbye to all of us! That’s okay, it was fun!
Okay, that is it for now. I know this is long, but I had to inform you about my trip! Thank you for all your prayers! I definitely felt them!