Monday, November 26, 2007

Officially Middle Aged!

Well, I think I hit it... middle age. That's when you start doing stuff you wouldn't normally do just to check it off the list of things to do while you're still able to do them. Skydiving was it for me! I told myself 3 years ago that when I turned the big 4-0, I was going to celebrate by jumping from a plane.

I went to Skydive Arizona over Thanksgiving vacation, crammed myself in a little plane with at least 20 other jumpers and did a tandem jump from 13,000 feet. It was awesome! At first there was a little panic until we got under control and then I was able to "rest" (as much as you can thousands of feet in the air!) on the wind and enjoy the free fall.

The guy that took me was Jay and he has jumped almost 4,000 times. I figured that one jump wasn't going to "kill" me. At least that was what I was hoping! Even if it did, the stack of papers signing my life away before I jumped, would never allow me to sue if I was hurt or my family to sue if I was dead. Thankfully we didn't have to deal with either one of those issues!

So off I went... soaring up to 13,000 feet and then plummeting back to earth at about 120mph. It was exhilerating and something I'm so glad I can add to the list of things that I can say "been there, done that, got the t-shirt (which I really did!)

Once again back on solid ground.... what a ride!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Made it home safely!

Our last day in Santiago, we had the opportunity to spend a little time at a girls home that one of our missionaries volunteers at. Many of these girls have been abandoned and come from pretty desperate situations but have ended up in this great home run by some very wonderful Christian people.

There are girls there from very young up to 18 years old. They have set up this home as a place of safety for these girls to live and as a school to teach them skills that they can use when they leave the home. I'm not sure how to describe this place except to share with you the phrase "the joy of the Lord" in describing how I felt there. These girls have come from situations not meant for little girls, but they know the Lord now and He is with them. His joy resides within the walls of this place... you can feel it the moment you walk through the gates. My heart will be forever touched by these little ones that so lovingly embraced me and shared their precious smiles with me.

From there, we left for the airport and soon found our way back home to Colorado. I was reflecting on some of the precious time I've had in Chile and found a note that one of our missionaries wrote to me. As sick as I've been this whole time, I treasure the words she wrote to me: "Thank you for leading us in worship! Your worship was truly from your heart to the heart of God and opened the way for us, as a group, to reach Heaven's throne!" Wow... I feel like I've lived and truly understand what it is now to know what Jesus means when He says: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." It was God in me that led those ladies in worship and I'm so incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to be used by the Lord in Chile. Thanks for being on this journey with me!

Blessings.... Tracy

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Coming home soon...

Our time is wrapping up here in Chile, and frankly I´m ready to come home. It has been a tough trip on me physically as I find myself once again sick and stuck in the hotel. Today would have been the day to travel to the coast to see the ocean but I woke up very weak and not feeling up to it.

I certainly have a new appreciation for all the missionaries we had the opportunity to serve last week! It feels somewhat clausterphobic to be in a country where I don´t know the language and am feeling ill. I can´t even begin to imagine living in one of these countries dealing with some of the extremely desperate situations that I heard over and over again last week.

On the bright side though, God is extremely good. He gave me such peace in the beginning of this trip that I am right where He wants me to be. There was such a hunger for worship here and it made it such a joy to have the opportunity to serve all the women here. It makes it all worthwhile... yes, even being sick through it all. When you are where the Lord wants you, problems seem to pale in the big picture.

So prayers today? Please pray that I´m well for our journey home tomorrow. We fly out of Santiago at 10pm on Wednesday evening and I´ll be home bright and early on Thursday morning. Also keep the rest of our team in prayer. Many have recovered from the food poisoning we think they had, but most of us are not in top physical shape at the moment.

Thanks much for all your prayers and support for me on this journey. Blessings!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Retreats are over...

We finished our 2nd retreat yesterday and it was very successful. Many happy, refreshed women returning to the field! I´m amazed at the strength of some of these women. One lady works in Columbia with the drug lords and people you´d be nervous to associate with. She has seen at least one of them come to the Lord and now serve as a Pastor.

Another one is going through difficult times because she was robbed at gunpoint in her home and tied up while her children watched. The things some of these ladies endure is just amazing. SOOOooo glad I´ve had the opportunity to lead worship for them.

I had a couple of dear ladies from Paraguay share how much the worship times meant to them. One gal has been on the field for only 2 years, but she says she had forgotten what it was like to sing in English with other English speaking women. It so filled her heart that she felt like she recieved what she came for after the first night together!

As wonderful as it´s been for the ladies, it´s been probably the most difficult time leading that I´ve had! For all but the last day, I´ve had little voice to sing because of my cold. The evening before our last day, the couple that we had borrowed the keyboard from said that something came up and they needed it back. So... I led an entire worship service with no instruments. It actually went really well and God has been so tremendously faithful to me in using me even in my weakness. So thankful that when we are so weak, we are strong in Christ!

Was able to connect with the guy doing our sound this week. He speaks very little English, but I found out that he attends the university in Santiago but misses his family very much. He plays piano, but taught himself by ear when he has opportunity. No money for a piano. I asked him to play for me and he proceeded to play a Bach fugue. Wow! I was blown away. Found out he is a non-practicing Catholic but he enjoyed the "high quality" of Christian music that we were using. Of course I took that opportunity and ran with it! There is a Christian bookstore next to the hotel and I purchased a Hillsong CD done in Spanish to give him. Hillsong is very popular with the 20 something crowd here so I´m hoping it will speak to him. He was so appreciative at the gift I gave him and was noticibly touched that someone would give him a gift. One of our missionaries from Santiago connected with him as well to invite him to her church. It was awesome! Pray for Fabion.

As for other prayers, we have some severe sickness in our group right now. Not sure if it´s food poisoning or the flu, but half our group is sick in the hotel today and was not able to go sightseeing. So far I´m still healthy and I really hope to stay that way! Please pray for us these last few days and for our journey home. It´s been a good trip, but I´m weary and ready to be home as are many of our women.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

I had the opportunity to go out for tea with one of the missionaries that my church supports here in Santiago. Her name is Amanda Essenmacher and she has a beautiful little baby... Megan. So for all those at Foothills... here´s Amanda and her new little girl!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Saying goodbyes

We finished our first retreat this morning and said our goodbyes to our missionary ladies. I had a couple ladies who knew both American and Spanish sign language join me the last day to sing "Open The Eyes of My Heart." Those who knew Spanish sang in Spanish the rest sang in English and these two lovely ladies did sign language for us. Had another lady join me the last couple days who was quite an accomplished violinist. She added some great depth to our worship time! She doesn´t have too much opportunity to play and I was delighted to have her join me. It was great!

We had some fabulous times together and they were so appreciative of all that we did. I received many thank you notes that were very sweet. Much to our surprise, the missionaries had rallied together to write notes to all the staff and present us with gifts at the end of our time together. What a treat!

Last night, we had the ladies share some funny stories they have experienced in their time in ministry. This is always a highlight because there is a lot of laughter! For those of us who only speak English, we often had to wait for a translation to really understand what was so funny. For example, one warm day, one of our ladies was trying to express to a gentleman that she was hot. Unfortunately later, she found out that she had been using the wrong word and told him she was very sexy. I´m sure he was wondering what was up with her.

Another lady had gone to the doctor for her annual female check up. She was a little confused when she was asked about being ¨Baptist.¨ She took the opportunity to share that she wasn´t ¨Baptist¨and went on to explain all about her ministry. She was embarresed to understand later that she was actually being asked about her ¨pap test.¨ We had many funny stories... unfortunately these are probably the most tame that I can actually publish here!

After the ladies left, I had the opportunity to get out to the local artisan market to shop. Some great things there! Unfortunately, it´s a little nerve wracking to shop because you have to be extremely careful about everything so that you don´t get robbed. We are told to wear our purses and bags in front of us and under a jacket if possible. Cameras have to be hooked over your neck and arm if possible so they don´t get yanked out of your hands. Someone (not from our group) was robbed right in front of the hotel. We are careful to go in groups and carry as little as possible. One of our staff wasn´t quite as careful and had her purse and $300 stolen without her knowing. Please pray for continued safety while we are here.

Some other prayer requests that you can keep in mind from our missionaries are for Cheryl: who is going to recieve results to find out if she is now cancer free from breast cancer. Her daughter finds out if she indeed has MS. (95% chance this is the case for her.) For Elise: who is contemplating marrying a Chilean man. She´s very much in love, but also understands there are some huge issues to really consider in marrying someone with a different cultural background. For me: I´m still sick with a cold and was not able to sing at all for our first retreats. Please pray that I´m able to get my voice back and be able to sing at our second retreat.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Rodeos and Retreats!

Saturday, we had the opportunity to go to a rodeo (with the emphasis making it sound like... ro - day - oh) It was fabulous! We went out to the middle of this small town where all the guys were competing. It was this rickety old ¨stadium¨ that you weren´t quite sure if you were going to fall through the wooden seats or not. The ¨cowboys¨were dressed in their ponchos and hats and rode two by two in competition with one another. Couldn´t really explain what all they were doing, but a highlight for me came in taking pictures afterwards. I went on a photo hunt with our photographer gal and we ended up meeting a dear man who dressed us up in his poncho and hat and let us ride his horse so that we could have good memories of him and our time in their town. It was awesome! Our bus driver taught him how to ask us in English ¨where do you come from?¨ Now I know how I sound trying to speak Spanish! Afterwards, we went for Empandas at a restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. 15 white American women walking through the door is quite a site I´m sure and we got royal treatment. We ate outside under an umbrella and were accompanied by a lady singing some Chilean music for us with her guitar player. Fantastic day of Chilean culture for sure!

We began our retreats Sunday afternoon and I´ve started with a bang... or really a bug. I´ve finally caught the cold I´ve been fending off the past couple of weeks. The good news? God still does amazing things! I was so disappointed to realize I wasn´t going to be much good singing with the group I´m leading, but it´s given me new opportunities to see how God works. I ended up leading a worship set Sunday evening... which was to my surprise. I didn´t know it was expected of me until about an hour before it happened. I did my best (led the flow of our time but didn´t sing much) and the women loved every minute of it! There were lots of tears and for those who know me well, I count every single tear as precious and a very good thing! A couple women shared that one of the reasons they came was for the worship/music and were already feeling like they got what they came for. All glory to God!!

In fact, the gal that we borrowed the keyboard from originally told me we could use it through Saturday because their church would need it back on Sunday. After we finished up last night, she came and told me that we could keep it through Sunday after all. She felt so blessed by our worship time that she wants us to continue to use it to bless the missionary ladies for our entire retreats. I asked about her church and she said they could sing accapella on Sunday, it´s more important for us to use it for the missionary ladies. God is good!

More later!

Friday, October 19, 2007

First Impressions

Well, I´ve been in Santiago for only two days and but it feels like I´ve been here many more already. I think that when the senses get a little overwhelmed, it gives you a whole new perspective on time. You tend to experience ever little moment rather than taking them for granted.

Santiago is a town filled with many, many people. It´s almost overwhelming walking down the streets at times. Many people!! Unfortunately, I´ve already made my first cultural mistake with one of them. Walking down the main street, I inadvertantly walked right across a display of posters that someone had laid out on the sidewalk to sell. Luckily I didn´t damage any of them! The girl´s response was to chatter at me in Spanish, I apologized profusely in English and I think she actually found the look of horror on my face to be comical. I heard her actually laughing at me as I walked away. Oops!

Another of our gals found out the hard way that some of our very simple non-verbal gestures don´t mean what we think they mean here. Instead of simply gesturing for our waiter to come to the table, he gently told her she was asking for much more than that! Poor gal! Makes my little blunder not seem so bad after all!

Headed to a Chilean Rodeo tomorrow. Looking forward to getting some fantastic photos of some beautiful costumes. Then we start our retreats on Sunday! Looking so forward to meeting all the ladies we´ve been praying for over the past few months.

Out of internet time for now... more later!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Heading to Santiago, Chile

Travel Junkie. That's the message on my luggage tag. I'm amazed that God would take my desire to travel and pair it with my love of worship and music. He is good!! Not sure what's in store for me in the coming few weeks, but I'm excited nonetheless! I will be leaving for Santiago, Chile on Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 17, flying to Dallas and then overnight to Santiago. Once again as a part of Women of the Harvest, we will begin our retreats the following week and have the opportunity to minister to over 130 missionary women from all over South America. Would appreciate all your prayers for safe and healthy travels and endurance for our long days ahead! I'll be posting all my stories here so check back often! Thanks!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Cape Town, S. Africa

March 2007 found me headed on my way to Cape Town, S. Africa. I began my travels in Denver, CO with about 6 others, some of whom I was meeting for the first time in the airport. We traveled to Dulles in Washington, DC and were joined by 3 others. Together we were off for our adventure around the world.
We were traveling as a group from a Christian organization called Women of the Harvest (WOTH.) WOTH seeks to serve N. American missionary women all over the world through an online magazine and spiritual retreats that are designed to address the needs of these women who have chosen to live in other cultures sharing the love of Christ. I was part of a volunteer staff of almost 20 people, that took vacation time from work, raised $4100 in support and traveled around the world to attend the retreats in S. Africa. It was my privilege to be able to lead our missionary women in music and worship. Off I went, to discover the fantastic journey that was prepared for me!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Little did they know...

I have been a piano player since before I can remember. In fact, there is not a time in my memory that I have not understood how to read music.... thanks to the never ending patience of my parents. They endured my whining, complaining and tears as I sat at the piano bench, crying my way through my 30 minute practice time. Little did they know, and little did I have the sense to dream, that I would one day find myself using that very gift of music that God gave me to minister to Christian missionary women on the opposite side of the globe.

I've always had a desire to travel, but have never had much opportunity. God knows my heart and has matched the gift he gave me in music and that travel bug in me, in ways that I would never have guessed!

I look forward to sharing my journeys around the world as I share this gift of music with others for God's glory. Little did my parents know... that the endless whining and complaining from that little blonde daughter of theirs, would result in a ministry to women around the world!