14 July 2010

changed & engaged

It's been a long time since I've shared anything on this site... almost a year & a half! I'm not sure who still reads this, but I thought I would put it out there. I haven't remained in contact with people from our trip like I desired and I really could give you all kinds of excuses, but I just haven't prioritized well. I apologize.

Change, I've been told, is the only constant. Some people fear change, some embrace it. I'd like to say the I embrace it, but that's not always true. I have gone through spells when I've been almost addicted to change (i.e. moving around for years after college), but I guess I've settled down into life in Western North Carolina -- the only consistent "home" for me throughout my life. This is a beautiful place to build community, in which I'm very involved!

Last October, I began working with YMCA of Western North Carolina and heading up a federal grant to establish two 21st Century Community Learning Centers at a couple middle schools in districts that have high poverty & drop-out rates. Basically, we facilitate a "community center" in collaboration with the schools which provide after-school tutoring & enrichment activities as well as services to the families including parenting classes and English as a Second Language classes.

The YMCA hired me to facilitate the whole grant: run the programs; hire, train & lead staff; work with partnering community organizations; and manage the budget. It's quite a challenging job, especially in the first year when we had to establish everything from nothing. I've learned so much!

This year, I have July and August off of work which allows me to participate in (and help lead) a mission to Ethiopia with our church's youth group. I'm joining a team that is going to serve with Jake & Sarah Wetzel -- long-term missionaries from my church, serving with Serving In Mission (SIM) in Ethiopia, who have been developing a camp which serves as a resource for youth workers & for youth from all over Ethiopia (much like how their camp in Bolivia is now being run by nationals).

The Wetzels partner with youth workers who are soccer coaches with a sports ministry, called Sports Friends, which is closely associated with the International Sports Coalition (ISC) that Hope & I connected with all around the world! God continues to keep us tied to the ISC body. What a blessing!

First, our team will be leading a sports camp for Sports Friends away from their village home of Camp Langano. Sports Friends works with 50,000 kids in Ethiopia, but they do not have the capacity for every kid to come to a sports camp. So we are taking the sports camp to them! We will work with our church-sponsored Ethiopian coach, who lives in the city of Arba Minch (meaning “40 Springs”), and help him lead a sports camp with about 80 kids. Apparently, we are the first church group to do this, and Sports Friends is excited about possibly opening up this idea for other churches.

Secondly, we also will do an outdoor Bible school for many of the children who live near Camp Langano—a predominately Muslim community. Our team is planning 3 days of games, crafts, Bible stories, and dramas for the two camps as well as learning how to “be” Jesus with them when we can’t speak the language. Please pray that this will all come together.

We leave Western North Carolina tomorrow to drive up to DC, and then we fly out for Ethiopia on the next day... not to return home until August 2nd.

Oh, by the way, another BIG piece of news I need to share is that I am engaged to be married!! My long-time boyfriend, Richmond Smith, proposed to me almost 3 months ago, and we plan to "become one" just after our Thanksgiving holiday this year (the third week of November).

Please pray for us as we move forward in planning for our marriage celebration (slow process right now), and please pray for me to find "balance" & rest in God’s provision... trusting Him with all my heart.

One last thing — soon, you will be able to check our website for Summer Mission Project (SMP) updates, which will tell more about our church's mission teams that have gone out & are going out all over the world. Just go to www.montreatyouth.com and click on SMP.

Thanks so much for being a part of our team, and thank you for your continual support through prayer!!