Sunday, October 25, 2009

R & R

Our retreats have come and gone. All I can say is wow. I feel a little overwhelmed by it all. I definitely feel like God did more in my life than I actually offered anyone else. This time in Cancun with WOTH has been more about personal growth which somehow just doesn't feel right. We come here with the mindset that we are here to serve and to have God actually use the time to minister to me almost seems selfish. I am incredibly thankful though and look forward to sharing those stories in person.

Tomorrow I am going with a group of the girls to a place I don't have a clue how to spell! There are a lot of amazing activities to do from what I understand, followed by dinner and a show. Looking forward to taking some pictures finally! I haven't been too good with the camera this time. The show is supposed to be incredible with wonderful costumes so I'm really looking forward to the day! Hopefully I'll have some fun pictures to share!

Sorry... the internet is pretty slow and uploading pictures is a little frustrating. I'll try again after my excursion tomorrow and when I have a little more patience to get it done! :-)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Being Thankful

Our next retreat is in full swing and the ladies that are in my small group this time are great. They are so honest and genuine with where they are and all commented on how necessary this retreat is for them. There were tears shed the first night and I'm amazed that after 27 years on the field, one of the biggest issues for one of our ladies is loneliness. There are many ladies that are far from other missionary ladies and so they end up feeling quite isolated and alone. Many have told me how wonderful it is to worship in English and of course that just makes me grin from ear to ear to hear that!

The worship times have been amazing and you can just see the pure joy these ladies have as they worship in their own heart language. I think after a number of years of hurting in this area myself, I know that this passion for worship is not gone and that I need to continue to find ways to be unleashed in this area. I feel like God has done some healing in my own heart this past week and almost feel guilty that I'm receiving more than I'm giving! I'm very thankful for the experience I've had here and a little speechless too. I haven't taken many pictures, but if you want to see more my roommate is our photographer and you can see her pictures on the WOTH blog: More later! :o)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One more thing...

This morning I decided to take a look in the "shoe shop" in the hotel to see what I might find that I can't live without! (Matt will be happy to read that!) However, I walked in and was pretty quickly greeted by Ali, the shop owner.

Ali is from Turkey and pretty quickly in our conversation he figured out that I was with the "missionary women." He was excited to tell me about his spiritual awakening over the past few years and that he believes in one God. He was raised with Muslim parents although I don't believe he actually practices their faith although I can see how it has influenced him. He was happy to share how he believes there is only one true God and I think he enjoys being able to say that with all the other missionary women who are wandering around here.

He commented about how amazing it was that the church supports the women to be a part of a conference like this and started asking about giving within the church. He was asking how it could be that in our economy we would do that. After fumbling around trying to explain how and why we tithe, I was feeling like I wasn't making much sense and hoping God was at work in our conversation in spite of my lack of words.

He has been "seeking a religion" over the past few years and it was quite an amazing conversation. He apologized for not having any coffee to share with me so I think I will need to take my own beverage and visit him in his shop and carry on our conversation while I'm here. I understand how quiet it can be in a shop like this since I worked in one similar in my own past so it will be fun to keep him company here and there. Pray for Ali and my conversations with him while I'm here and for his business - pretty slow with the poor economy and lack of tourists.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Resting and relaxing

Well, our first retreat has come and gone already! It's amazing how fast time has gone by! Our first group of ladies left this afternoon and it was a little sad. There was one lady that is actually from Japan of all places, who was allowed to come to the Cancun retreat. That's not normal that they would allow a lady from another area of the world to attend since they want to offer this special treat to ladies ministering in the immediate area. I know that God made the way for her to be here so that she and I would connect! Turns out she has her doctorate in worship studies and she and I clicked instantly. She was so kind to me and I felt like she was here just for me. Definitely a gift from God directly to me!

One of the gals in my small group for this retreat was really special to me as well. We never spent any time in deep conversation, but she told me this morning that for whatever reason, she just felt a special connection to me. I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for her as well and I'm not even quite sure why. I was quite sad to see her go today.
My room mate (Nicole) and I were able to switch rooms today... yeah! Up to this point, I think we were the only one from our group that didn't have a view of the pool or the ocean from our balcony. We had the "lovely generator on top of the roof of the hotel next door" view. Surely we must have been paying more for that view! Anyway, we are now overlooking the pool area and can see the ocean. We decided on our morning off tomorrow, we might order
room service for breakfast and eat from our balcony. How's that for luxury! Well... only if it's not pouring rain like it was this morning! You'd think we had a hurricane on
the way or something! They've had a red flag warning the whole time we've been here so far which means you can't go swimming in the ocean. Major bummer - and it's probably been cloudy more than it's been sunny. I did get to sit by the ocean today and go down and at least put my toes in so no complaints here. The water really is as blue as it looks in the postcards. No photo touch up there! It's beautiful!

It was great to have the afternoon off to rest! Tomorrow we start all over again with another group of ladies so we are all in emotional downtime at the moment and there were many happy women laying in the sun today!

More later! :-)

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Retreat in Full Swing!

Well, made it through my first couple days at the retreat. Funny, I've been here since Friday and I've only had the opportunity to gaze at the ocean from a distance! The nature of the work for now though... and I love it!

I've led worship a couple times and it's been amazing. I was quite nervous about it all because when I got here, the volunteer staff had been told about me before my arrival (I arrived a day after everyone else) and were making comments like... "everyone has said just wait until you hear Tracy!" Just a little bit of pressure there for this insecure worship leader!

I know the acoustics are wonderful in the meeting room that we are in, but I could swear the angels are singing with us. It's SO beautiful to hear these women sing! There is nothing more amazing than singing Holy, Holy, Holy accapella with a room full of women so dedicated to the Lord! I'm simply blown away. I have a gal leading with me who is just a beautiful woman inside and out. She and I have a lot in common and have both had our share of heartaches in the realm of worship in the church. She has definitely an unexpected gift to me on this trip.

I spent the afternoon today in our hairstylist's room helping her. I mostly did jobs like
sweeping up all the hair and entertain people waiting for their haircuts. When she asked me to blow dry and style one of the girls hair, I was a little bit nervous to say the least! It actually turned out pretty well and I didn't even burn her with the curling iron or bump her in the head with the hair dryer! Success in my book! Ha!

The hotel is pretty amazing and I really look forward to hanging out here with Matt when he comes next week. I think after this week is over I'll be pretty exhausted and really anxious to finally get to "go" to the beach even though it's right out the back end of the hotel!

The internet is pretty slow loading pictures so I'll have to put more up later. For more stories and pictures, you can visit the "official" site at You won't see me in the staff picture because I was off fighting a migraine, but feeling great now!! Off to prepare for our worship time tomorrow. More later! :o)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm here!

Well, traveled for the first time out of the country on my own. Usually I have the benefit of being part of a group and feeling a little more secure about having a support group around me. This time I had to go it on my own! So with about 130lbs of gear (3 suitcases worth) I headed through the Mexican airport on my own. Of course I was stopped because I was "carrying so many of the same kind of item." I had to give an account for what I was carrying and what I was doing with it - in as general terms as I could. I ended up having to pay about $16 to carry it all on through customs so not too bad I suppose. Could have been worse!

Pushed my 3 suitcases on out the front door to be greeted by about 30 guys standing outside all holding their signs wanting me to go with their company. Luckily I saw my guy pretty quickly and he showed me where to catch my van. I was given the royal treatment because I had a "private" transport arranged for me. Kinda nice! I hopped in the van and was off to my hotel in no time!

The hotel is beautiful. The ocean is the bluest blue you would ever see but it's been pretty cloudy and VERY muggy. All our ladies arrive tomorrow and off we go! God is good and we once again have an amazing group of staff ladies. Looking forward to see what's in store!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Off to Cancun!

Women of the Harvest... Part III

I'm off again to lead worship for retreats for missionary women. This time it will be women from all over Central and South America. A little anxious as this time I'm traveling on my own with two 50 lb suitcases plus a third carry on suitcase. It's a lot of stuff! I'll be happy to get there and give up about 65 lbs of stuff that I won't have to bring home! :-)

We'll begin our retreat on Sunday afternoon and I'm excited to see what God has in store for the next week!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Egypt and back home...

Well, I made it home last night and what a ride it has been! After Israel we spent a few days in Egypt. We crossed the border from Israel into Egypt in Eliat and then crossed the Sinai penninsula. Talk about barren land! There is hardly even a bush to be found. It's no wonder the Israelites were grumbling in the desert. I would have been too! No water. No food. Lots of heat in the summer. Yuck.

Anyway, as we started out across the Sinai, we joined up with a new guide and driver... and an armed police escort. That had us a little on edge at first. Then we started crossing through checkpoint after checkpoint. We weren't allowed to take any pictures through the checkpoints and quite honestly, I wouldn't have wanted to make those guys mad! They were all armed and stood behind bullet proof shields as we checked through. I thought I would feel safer in Egypt but yikes! I think we were all a little on edge... especially when they provided two armed police escort vehicles with our bus once the sun went down. It was obviously not a very safe place to be.

So we made it safely to the hotel that night and left the next morning for a little 4-wheeling in the Desert of Sin. We got to climb in some caves, scoured the desert for treasures - all rocks. There is nothing else. Had some fun in the sand dunes and then headed to a wonderful lunch provided for us by a group of bedouins. Delicious food that was safely prepared for our sensitive American stomachs. We were quite thankful that we could eat the fruits and vegetables because it was about the only place we could be certain they had been washed in bottled water. It was wonderful! To picnic in an oasis in the desert in Egypt (where the wandering Israelites were known to have been) with food prepared by the local desert dwellers... amazing!!!

We traveled on to Cairo and the traffic there is amazing! There are no rules. There are no stoplights. There are lane markings but they are never used. We entered Cairo at the end of rush hour and were on a 3 lane highway. At one point, we counted 7 cars across this 3 lane highway. Then of course you have to consider the donkey carts along the road, the cars on the sidewalks and the people dodging traffic trying to work their way to the other side of the road. Do you remember that really old video game called Frogger? (Yes, I'm showing my age.) It was just like that. People were trying to cross the road without getting splat. I'm amazed there weren't more accidents - or deaths!

We visited the pyramids on our last day and I was surprised to find that they were right in the city of Cairo. I thought we'd have to travel out to the desert to get to them but learned very quickly that people (like our guide) actually live in homes and apartments with a view of the pyramids. There are places you can take pictures from that make it look like you are in the middle of nowhere, but it's actually decieving.

So, it's been a long amazing trip and one I will NEVER forget. I hope that you will one day have the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. It's the best trip I've ever taken!

Here's some other misc pictures I didn't have time to post but thought it would be fun to share...

The golden menorah worth $$$$ that was created for the rebuilt 3rd temple. It's in line of sight with the Dome of the Rock. Probably makes the Muslims a little nervous to know the Jews are preparing for God to rebuild the 3rd temple on "their" sight?:

Instruments for the 3rd temple:

From the garden of Gethsamane - the olive trees that have been kept alive since the day of Jesus. If they could only talk! What would they say of that night Jesus sat among them?!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Goodbye Israel...

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Israel and what a time it's been! We've spent the past 2 1/2 days in Jerusalem and it's given me SOOOO much new insight into the Bible. It's fascinating that people here don't argue over whether or not God exists, that's a given. The arguments are more over who's right about what they believe to be true about God.

In the past couple days we have walked and sat and talked in the places where Jesus lived. Yesterday we spent some time in Bethlehem (Palestinian territory currently) and that was "interesting." The place where Jesus was thought to have been born is now covered over by a church. Well, 3 churches actually. Each one has their own "tribute" to the birthplace of Christ.

We were able to go to the Western Wall or Wailing Wall where the Jews daily go to pray for the Messiah to return. We went to the Temple Institute and heard from a young Jewish girl explain how the Jewish people are preparing to build the 3rd temple. Even though the Muslims have The Dome of the Rock in place over the temple site (actually it's been there 1300 years) the Jews have decided not to wait any longer and they are beginning to prepare things for the temple. Things such as the 24ct golden menorah that stands in the site of The Dome of the Rock. They are preparing by making instruments and the altar of shobread. She explained that they don't know who the high priest is yet that will come, but they hope that they can build the temple before he gets here.

We visited the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock is located. It's under Muslim control and we had to go through extra security to get there. The Temple Mount is where the original temple was built and torn down again. The Jews definitely look forward to the day that this golden dome is torn down and the 3rd temple is built in it's place. I had a bit of a funny incident there. I got "scolded" today by a "poor beggar woman" who was insulted that I would not give her enough money. In fact she would not except what I was trying to give her - which was equivalant to about .25. It's all I happened to have in my pocket and I thought I would give it to her. So much for being poor! I've never known a true poor person who would actually not accept money!

We sat on the Mount of Olives on Sunday morning and sang "Holy, Holy, Holy" in a small church just above the Garden of Gethsemane. Interestingly enough, Get' semane actually refers to an oil press. It's the tremendous pressure that's placed on the olives to produce the pure virgin olive oil. It's the garden that Jesus was "pressed" in on in His final days of life. We wondered as we gazed on this garden, what these 2000 year old trees heard that night. Trees that have literally been kept alive for 2000 years!

We walked the Via Delorosa today - the way that is thought that Jesus walked in His final hours through Jerusalem to the cross. We spent some time in Antonio's fortress, the place where the soldiers played games for Jesus clothes. We walked on the original road of that day - complete with grooves in the rocks to give traction to the the chariots. We saw the "game boards" that were carved in the rock from those days. We went to both spots that are thought to be the tomb where Jesus was laid. One place is the Church of the Holy Seplucher. Definitely not my favorite spot. The Garden Tomb however is what I like to picture as the original tomb. It's peaceful, uncluttered and empty! We ended our time together today with communion in the the Garden Tomb. It was beautiful and the grand finale of our time together as a group.

So tomorrow we leave for Egypt and say goodbye to this amazing place. With all the conflict that's gone on in this part of the world recently, we have not come face to face with any trouble. Heard it in the distance, yes. Actually we heard some gun shots in Jerusalem today for a couple minutes. When our guide was asked about it, he said if it was anything serious, we would immediately hear sirens. Thankfully we didn't! ...and Malcolm continued to speak without skipping a beat.
About of a third of our group heads back to the States. We're off for more adventures in the Sinai penninsula to see the exodus route of the Israelites. We will see the Pyramids and take a camel ride in the desert. Much to see and do still! Not sure how internet access will be in Egypt but I'll do my best to update. :-)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Well, I'm going to have to go out of order here because I'm just overwhelmed with info to share and don't know where to begin!

We went to Jericho today and saw the wilderness where Jesus wandered. Israel is a very rocky country and the deserts are VERY barren. It gives new perspective to Jesus being asked to turn rocks to bread. We were met by Bedouins peddlling their wares.

We traveled to Masada... the amazing city on top of a rock. Everything is built on the "high places" here because that's the best place to see your enemies coming. Re-read those passages and picture many mountain tops covered in towns and cities. They can all see each other from across the valleys.

We visited the Dead Sea - although I forgot my swimsuit so I couldn't go in! Ugh... It was funny to see people float on top of the water. It almost looked like they were defying nature as they lay on top of the water. Fun too watch!
We saw this dead tree at the spot that marked where King Saul would have been hung on the city wall for all to see his decapitated body. It's AMAZING to walk through places that have things that are 2000 to 4000 years old! Things we can touch and feel for oursleves! Way cool...

We visited Kumran where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. We had a bonfire by the Sea of Galilee. Our Pastor Steve baptised some of our people in the Jordan river... way cool. We visited the mountain where Jesus spoke the Beatitudes from... Mount of the Beatitudes. I learned that it is Jewish custom for the family to tear their clothes when a loved one dies... think about that when you think about the torn curtain in the temple at Jesus' death.

We have a Muslim bus driver, a Jewish tour guid and a group of Christians all traveling together. A Muslim, a Jew and a Christian... sounds like the start of a joke! These guys are amazing though. Manuevering the bus into places I wouldn't guess and our guide sharing his knowledge of the bible and history that brings light in SOOO many ways that it is overwhelming!
We are up and out the door by 7:30 every morning and don't get back until 7pm in the evening. It's pretty tiring but everyone is having a fantastic time! I have had my eyes open to so many new things now that I can see for myself what our Bible is talking about. It's been awesome!

Tomorrow we will start on the Mount of Olives and follow the path of the triumphal entry. We learned something significant about palm branches... which of course I can't remember! I'm sure we'll hear the story again tomorrow though. We will also visit Bethlehem. I've learned that our English translation adds the "h" to BetHlehem. The spelling here would be Bet' Lehem - I think. It literally means house of meat. Needing "meat" as a believer rather than just the "milk?" Interesting when you think about where Jesus came from.

So many stories and so little time to share them right now! Things are kinda slow in getting pictures up, but hope you enjoy the ones I do get up! I'll do my best to update, but I fear it won't be as often as I hoped for! I'll share more as I'm able. :-)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We made it!

We made it! Made it through an interesting time in the Istanbul airport. As we were checking through, there was a "lovely" lady from the States trying to push her way with the Turkish airport personel. Not sure what happened as she was going through security, but she embaressed the rest of us by her actions. Yelling at the the airport personnel and telling them that all they want to do is fight and blow up people is probably not quite the right way to convince them that you are not a suicide bomber. Hmmm... not sure what was going through her head but they finally told her she had the choice of going back to the States or staying in Turkey but she wasn't going on... wasn't going on our flight... thank goodness.

Well, I had my first day touring Israel and my head is swimming with information! Our tour guide, Malcolm, is very knowledgeable and I can't even think of where to begin! I did wake up with a view of the Sea of Galilee out my window. Amazing. We took a boat ride across the lake and it's just amazing to know that I'm in the places that I've read about all my life in the Bible. I'm definitely going to have to have A LOT of time to process what I'm witnessing and hearing.

We did start the day with a boat trip across the Sea of Galilee. At one point the captain turned off the motors so we could experience what it would have been like to simply hear the waves against the side of the boat. We also experienced what it must have been like to fish with the fishing nets that were used. It was really neat to watch them throw the net!

When we came back to shore we had the opportunity to see a new testament period fishing boat that had been excavated. Amazing to see something like that that's been buried under mud and water for 2000 years!

We also saw a number of sites today that were excavated ruins from thousands of years ago. In fact, we saw some sites that had been built back in Abrahams time. Think of that! To stand there and look at something that had been built thousands of years ago! My head is swimming with information and it's hard to put into words all that I've seen and heard today.

We traveled the Golan Heights today, saw the possible area where Jesus sent the demons into a herd of pigs that ran into the sea. To know that we are where Jesus was is mind-blowing. What an amazing time we've had and it's only been one day! So as I type, I leave you with one of my favorite shots today. This is the sunset as we were heading back from the Golan Heights to the Sea of Galilee. You know it has to be a special sunset when even the tour guide has his camera out taking pictures. Thank you God for an amazing day!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

11 days and counting...

...til I take off for Israel! Unfortunately things may be escalating there once again? Heard news reports and saw the warnings put out by the US Department of State. It's not stopping anyone from going but just asking us to be "aware" and "vigilant" as we are in highly public places like hotels, shopping areas, restaurants. Hmmm.... all the places we are going to be going to? I can't say I'm not at all nervous about visiting there, but I can say this is bound to be the biggest adventure I've ever been on... or almost ever been on!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Stay tuned...

Off and running again! I'm headed to Israel two weeks from tonight. Yup! You read that right! In the midst of the Israel/Gaza "conflict" or "disturbance" or whatever you want to call it, I'm heading to the land where peace has not really been known since the beginning of mankind! To wait for "peace" I think, would be to wait for the end of the world.

So, I'm headed off to help lead a group of about 30 from our church. We are going to see fabulous places and walk on grounds that hold thousands of years of history, conflict, war and that was imprinted by the footsteps of Jesus. Wow. Will we be able to see the garden tomb where Jesus was laid? Will we be baptized in the Jordan river? Will we picnic on the Sea of Galilee? Will we float in the Dead Sea? So many amazing adventures lie ahead! I'll keep you posted!