Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"I want to be where you are.. I'm running into your arms...

And I will never look back
So Jesus, here is my heart
When did love become unmoving?
When did love become unconsuming?
Forgetting what the world has told me
Father of love you can have me
You can have me."

Well a lot has happened since I last posted...
I was given a full-time teaching job at Jackson Christian, teaching middle school Social Studies, high school English, and a couple PE/weight training classes. It was a rough first year but I made it and I'm so blessed. I decided early in the year to be a leader on the JCS mission trip to Guatemala. I just got back and thought it fitting to write a blog to go along with my other adventures... so here we go!

I left my heart in Guatemala...
I was one of four leaders on the JCS 2011 Mission Trip to Guatemala and it was such a wonderful experience! Feeling God move in my own life and watching God work in the lives of my students/players was incredible. It will always amaze me how big God really is and how we can go from a tiny community at Jackson Christian and still connect with people in a totally different part of the world - different economically, different socially, different emotionally. But still under one commonality.. God.

I fell in love with the people we met in Guatemala. The kids, the people who came to watch us serving their communities, the staff of Global Soccer Ministries (Polo, Charlie, Denilo, Osmar), and the Bantas (John, Amy, Hope, Luke & Titus - the missionary family we worked with - they also are in charge of GSM in Guatemala City). I can't explain to you in words the impact this ministry and these people are having on Guatemala. It has really touched me and I can only hope that God would give me an opportunity to work along side them again. Here's an idea of how we helped when we were there...

When our team arrived we were taken to the Nazarene Seminary where we stayed for the week... they were lovely accommodations! Shout out to my roomies - Madeline and Tamry! :)

Each day our team would head out to one of the sites where GSM held soccer practices and devotionals for the neighborhood kids. Half the day would be spent working on field improvements and cleaning up the area. People would see the group of "gringos" walking through the neighborhood and all of a sudden we had everyone's attention. A little uncomfortable being an attraction but it's what we were hoping for! If those people saw us doing our work, hopefully it would raise questions and maybe even spark a converstation that would lead someone to Christ. Whatever it takes. I believe our group was of like minds when it came to this concept and we did our best to serve with Christ-like attitudes so that we could be a light in a dimmed neighborhood. The other half of the day was spent putting on a soccer themed carnival for the kids. Games that involved soccer throw-ins, shooting and ring tossing were set up and it was such a blessing to see the smiles on the kid's faces just because they were able to be a part of it.

We usually finished the work day with a little soccer match. Two of the days we actually played Guatemalans vs. Gringos. We tied the first day but won 3-1 the next time we played (I even got to play some offense and scored a goal... I don't get to do that too often anymore!). However, after playing on the dirt fields, I told myself that I would never complain about our field at JCS again. Other days, we went to a turf facility called Bremen and played against each other. It was really fun!

We would close out the day with our debriefing sessions and I'm so proud of all the students that shared about what God was teaching them while they were there. It takes courage to do that in front of your peers. I know I wasn't the first one in line to speak in front of people when I was in high school, so I was really excited to see their willingness to do so. God is definitely working in their lives and it is so exciting!

And lastly we couldn't go to bed without a "friendly" card game. Whether it was Euchre, Scum, or Phase 10... it got pretty intense. It was always good for a few good laughs though.

On our last day we had a chance to travel by bus, with our trusty driver Valentine, to Antigua. It is such a cute little city and it has a huge market! We did a little shopping, watched an entertaining mime in the park (who wanted to marry Emma), and even had some time to partake in some delicious ice cream from a shop down the street. All in all, a good day!

I know it's long but I have one more thing...
Global Soccer Ministries is growing! The events that are unfolding in Guatemala City are so exciting. A very generous donor gave money that has allowed GSM to purchase land to make their own site. Big plans are in store and God is going to use them to reach even more people throughout the country. I continue to pray that everything goes smoothly as they start to break ground. Like I said, God is doing some amazing things and I'm so grateful to have been able to witness even just a small part of it. I would love to be more involved and maybe even spend a summer there. We'll see what God has in store for me, either way, I hope that I can go back someday.

He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"I know that your love is the same because the sun came up today..."

"Just as if we deserve it
Just as if any one of us fools is worth it
Truth is, that we'll never be perfect
But you love us just the same..

Isn't it love, isn't love, isn't it love."

Today I received a gift from God... it is a gift educators like to call a SNOW DAY!
It's been many moons since I've written and I figured what a perfect day to write an update.

This picture was taken on my very first day as a real teacher at JCS, September 1, 2009. I was really nervous but since then I think things are working out ok. Until now, it's been a routine of getting up at 5:30am and facing a day full of 6th graders with endless questions and stories of times past.. whether their accounts are true or not.. only the Lord knows. However, the smile and nod have become a staple of my everyday living (Shhh. That's a secret). They're a handful but I love them. My days of middle school mentality are briefly interrupted with my 9th grade English class. I love my 9th graders in a whole different way. I appreciate how they are more controlled and a little less inquisitive. Teaching them is challenging. We spend the majority of our time working on grammar and diagramming sentences. For someone who has never had this before in life (a.k.a. me) it can be a little stressful. I always hate it when I cannot answer my student's questions. I feel inadequate. I've gotten a pretty good handle on what I'm teaching but the confidence isn't there yet. So, when I'm feeling the confidence blues I just have to remember that I've been learning this from scratch. Plus, I'm finding out that teaching is more and more like an acting career anyway. Sometimes I even like to picture myself on a movie set starring in my own life. It takes a little of the pressure off and provides some much needed comic relief.
Not all of the teaching has been stressful. I had a blast teaching Romeo & Juliet. I had my class act it out in front of everyone and we even used EXPO dry erase markers as swords! I think the students enjoyed it... they wouldn't be caught admitting it though. I also get to teach writing and Great Expectations. I'll be looking forward to thinking up some creative ways to get the "I'm too cool for school'ers" interested.

Monday, August 31, 2009

"So happy to love..."

"Yet so far to go
You lead me on to where I've never been before.
Sweet Jesus, You never let me go."

The Crazy Life of Kara Weitzel....

I have been on a non-stop train to crazyville since I've been back from India. It's crazy to think that this week it has been a month! And I still miss it so much...

Anyway here's an update of what has been happening...

I spent some time up north at the cottage with my family (and Diana - same thing). It was wonderful to be in northern Michigan. I absolutely love it there and I want to live there. Maybe someday... 

When I got back from that little trip is was right back into things. My Rush premier team started and it was stressful getting reoriented and getting everything organized but we've had a few practices and have had 2 games in the past 2 weeks. We're 0-2, but I still see potential and I still have hope. Life would be sad without it. This past weekend we were up in Traverse City. I made a team bonding weekend out of the deal and I think the girls (and their parents) really enjoyed themselves. It was fun, but crazy.

Next news flash... I'm a teacher! The week after I got back from India, Jackson Christian called me and offered me a teaching job. Crazy! I will be teaching 6th and 9th grade English as well as serving as a teacher aid/individual tutor for the 6th grade class. School starts tomorrow and I feel so under prepared but I'm taking the advice of one of my professors... "Teaching is like acting. All you have to do is act like you know what you're talking about and you'll be fine." Ok, so I don't take this literally all the time but it will do for the first week of school.

I'm also the new Middle School Boys Soccer coach.... if that doesn't scream crazy, I don't know what does! Especially since I have 25 boys out for the team. Pray for me. 

New Apartment!! Yay! I have a place to live! I had no plan for when I came back to the States and didn't really know where I was going to live. Thank you to Chris and Nikki for letting me crash at their house for a few nights... and to Korey and Jen and Kev for letting me stay with them for a night or two. I was quite the nomad for awhile. So in the midst of all this I checked out some apartements, was approved, and I've been gradually moving into my new apartment out at Trillium Pointe. I'm so excited that I'm not living out of a suitcase anymore... what a relief.

Needless to say it's been a crazy month...

P.S. I know I overused the word "crazy"... that was the point, sorry if it annoyed you.

"There must be complete reliance on the Lord, in other words, one must develop the discipline of surrender."

Charles Swindoll

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Your spirit falls on India and captured me in your embrace..."

"Father God, you have shed your tears for Mother India 
They have fallen to water ancient seeds 
That will grow into hands that touch the untouchable 
How blessed are the poor, the sick, the weak..."
-Caedmon's Call

more pictures coming...
A Glimpse of Traveling in India...

Monkeys Everywhere!!

Entrance to the Taj Mahal

Jama Masjid - Inside the Mosque in Old Delhi

Entrance to the Agra Fort

The Taj with Aimee
(I still can't believe I was actually there! Weird.)

The Red Fort in Delhi
(it was closed the day we went so I didn't get to explore it)

Jama Masjid - Inside the Largest Mosque in Delhi

The Lotus Temple in Delhi

"I hear you whispering my name, you say, my love for you will never change..."

"What if I stumble, what if I fall?
What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all?
Will the love continue when my walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble, and what if I fall?"

I have only been abroad a few times but none as significant as my trip to India. My least favorite part is readjusting to life in the U.S. If I experience culture shock, it is always when I step foot on American soil again. I get so frustrated at myself and at the way society works here. Don't get me wrong, I am so blessed to live in such a well developed country, but why do I feel that everyone (including myself) takes everything for granted? Remembering India and the people that I met there is a good reminder of the blessings that I have here, but it is also a blessing to have those memories of how the Lord provides even in the smallest ways. Have you noticed... it is never through material things? It is through His love and the people that he places in your life. Things are not extravagant, He is. 

So, I have returned and I have this renewed mindset, but what if I forget? What if I lose it again? I don't want to but I know there will be days I stumble and fall away. Does that hinder my ability to be a light for Christ? It is my hope that no matter what I am dealing with in my own life, whether it is a time of doubt or a time of praise, that the light of Christ will always shine through. In the end, it's not about me anyway.  

"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
DC Talk

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Hollywood, Bollywood, London and Chicago... Lord, all the places you have placed us..."

"I was born in a small town, and I feel like a small man
Looking out the windows of this Bombay bus

The rain in Bombay falls on the righteous and the wrong
And there is no way for me to understand
Obscene idols, rickshaw cycles, cows on the highway
Honey, all the things that I have seen
But most amazing of them all is the grace that we believe in
That we are known and love, loved and known."

So here is the wrap up (It's a little long). I didn't have the internet my last few days so I just typed it on my computer and now that I am home I can post it. 

Thrusday, July 30th... Last Day in Dharamsala

Up early, I went to McLeod to run a couple errands. I had to do an exchange, buy a couple last minute parting gifts and say goodbye to all my favorite shop keepers. After seeing them at least twice a week and numerous cups of tea, you really do become friends with them. I got back with a little time to spare and it was off to my last day with the women's group. The tears were flowing before class even started. Our youngest student, came up to me with her huge beautiful brown eyes and said... "Kara, please don't go." Rip my heart out! I picked her up, put her in my lap and started scheming how I could pack her in my suitcase. After everyone had arrived and the emotions had settled down a little bit we started teaching the day's lesson: a review of past tense and articles (a, an, & the). We made it through the majority of class when Jetenter stopped us and said that we were going to have another cooking lesson in honor of my last day. We learned how to make momos! (Mitchell, I'll have to make them for you sometime!) It was so fun and by the way, onions are potent over there. I usually don't have too much of a problem cutting onions but I thought I was going to die. It's also amazing how my mind set changed during the time I was over there. Normally, I would be really conservative about what I ate but by the end it really didn't matter anymore. We finished cooking and soon it was time to leave. I hugged everyone goodbye as it had become a tradition after every class... but this time it was for good and it was really sad. Ekta, Rita, Jetender, Inder, Madu, Auman, and Jessie all walked the the end of the drive way and stood there waving until our car was out of sight.  Sad day.

Back to the house – 1 hour left. I walked in the door and went up to my room to finish packing. I couldn't stop crying. I was going to miss India so much! I fell in love when I was over there and I already long to go back. I spent my last few minutes talking with my friends before Jeetu and Mukesh finally came up to collect my luggage. More hugs, more goodbyes, more tears. What made it even worse was that I was leaving alone. I just had to make it to Delhi and wait for Aimee to arrive on the bus in the morning. 

I arrived at the CCS base in Delhi with 5 other volunteers from Palampur. Pete was there! Yay, I had a friend! However, after a long day of traveling, being emotionally and mentally exhausted and fighting a cold, I was ready for bed soon after we arrived. I managed to make it through dinner and a movie but then I passed out as soon as I hit the pillow.

P.S. In Delhi we had air conditioning... I almost forgot what that sweet little invention was. 

Friday, July 31st (Jeetu’s Birthday)

Delhi. Aimee arrived just as we were heading down to breakfast. I was so excited to see her! She went right to bed as her bus ride was a little long and as she would put it.. she was knackered. After breakfast we had a feedback meeting with Bela and then it was off to sight see in the city. I know I have said it before but I am so thankful that I was in Dharamsala! However, it was good to do a little sightseeing in the city. We called our friend Jassie to take us around town. He picked us up around noon and we started our adventure by going to the Lotus temple (of the Baha'i faith), followed by the Red Fort, the India gate, a huge Mosque, and the streets of Old Delhi. In the temple and the mosque we were required to take off our shoes.. nothing new... but I thought my feet were going to blister it was so hot walking on the cement. Everything was very beautiful though and I'll explain more later with pictures. 

That night we ate dinner and Pete and I went and played soccer in the little courtyard outside our flat. It felt so good! I don't think I've ever gone that long without playing soccer! Pete plays for Union College and it was fun to play a little one on one and get some exercise. The bad thing was that we both felt really out of shape and we were both drenched in sweat by the time we were finished. It was time to hit the showers and get to bed. We had a big day ahead of us... starting at 2am we would be on our way to the TAJ MAHAL!!

Saturday, August 1 - Let the Travels Begin

2:30am –  Left for the Taj Mahal

4 hour drive in a taxi

No sleep, because you're always afraid that the next turn could be your last.

With all of that being said, seeing the sunrise at the Taj Mahal was worth every minute of not sleeping and the bumpy, crowded taxi ride. It was so pretty and the people-watching was phenomenal. Words can't describe the Taj Mahal and pictures will not do it justice but I will post the pictures in a picture blog later so you can all see it. It was wonderful! After we spent a couple hours walking around the mosque and the Taj, Jassie took us to breakfast. (Aimee did not feel well for the rest of the trip so she spent most of the time napping in the car. I felt so bad for her, especially since she had been looking forward to the trip for weeks.) The three of us enjoyed some breakfast and then it was off to explore the Agra Fort. I hung out with Pete most of the time because he was more adventurous and we went searching for hidden passageways and fun stuff like that. It was so huge! We spent nearly 2 1/2 hours there and we didn't even see everything! Crazy! The downside... there were bats. Yes, I screamed. And ran.  

(Just in case you were wondering here is the brief story behind the fort and Taj Mahal... The emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of one of his wives who died in childbirth. It is a tomb of sorts. Anyway he built it across the river from the fort where he ruled.. the Agra Fort. The view is amazing. The bad part is, he was overthrown and locked up in his own house. His cell is in what is called the Octagon tower. So this magnificent structure that he spent all his money and time on to honor his dead wife was just outside of his prison cell which was located in a fort that he used to rule... talk about depressing. There were also two different parts of the fort that were not open when we were there. These were his daughter's living quarters... both of them were the size of multi-million dollar houses complete with something called the "hall of mirrors." No big deal. This was used as a dressing quarters I believe for his daughters or one of them. Anyway it was lined with diamonds, so says the guard that tried to make us pay for looking through the window (we could only look in the window since it was closed to the public).  Also, there were huge beautiful courtyard gardens. I really wish I could have see it back in it's prime!)

It was a long buy very eventful day and the drive home took forever but we were able to catch up on some much needed sleep. I was super tired but I figured I had a long flight ahead of me so it might be a good thing. We were told to order pizza for dinner and nothing made us more excited than seeing a huge menu with a plethora of American style pizzas. Mmmm. It was amazing! 

After dinner, I packed the remainder of my stuff and it was off to the airport. Everything went smoothly, once again no problems... good deal. I arrived at my gate and pulled out my book. I had a couple hours so I was in for the long hall. When I looked up I saw Pete sitting across from me. He had left for the airport a couple hours earlier than I had and he was still waiting for his flight. We talked a bit, but it wasn't long before he was called to board. Back to my book. I read "Christian the Lion." I don't know if you all are familiar with the YouTube hit of the guys being reunited with the lion cub that they raised in London, but that is what the book was about. It was so interesting... and sentimental. I finished the 200+ page book to give you an idea of how long I waited in the airport. 

The time had come, 18 long hours and it was back to the USA.