Life never really slows down. I keep thinking that it will, but it just never really does. I got back from an amazing trip to Venezuela, squeezed in a quick triathlon, then headed off to South America again -- this time to Peru with my sister. I have been back for almost two weeks and things just keep moving faster and faster. I have unpacked from the race and both trips, but nothing is put away, laundry is in disarray, and my house is need of an old fashioned scrub down. Today I was so amazed at the creative way in which I have arranged the piles of stuff, that I actually thought about renting a dumpster just to empty the house and start over again. If I don't start the cleaning tonight it won't get done until next weekend, at which point I will be naked unless I either locate where I put the clean laundry or I buy more clothes. At least my dogs recognize me when I walk through the front door!
When we last left off I had just returned from Venezuela and was hoping to squeeze in some training for my race. Ahhh Venezuela. So many people ask me why I go to Venezuela. I have been there twice and both times it was with my church on short term missions. I hope to go again and again. I love the people there and I have made friendships with my brothers and sisters in Christ who live and worship there. I go because I feel called by Christ to go. I go with no fear for my safety when I am there for His purposes. Some will think I am not being very smart. I am okay if you think that. I know God will protect me and that He has a plan for my life and He knows how my days are numbered. I don't take unnecessary risks. We go as a group and we have well seasoned travelers and savvy locals who travel with us. It is sad that a few people in that country who speak out against US citizens can scare us away from such a place as this where the majority of the people really do love us. But I understand the fear. I would not want to go there as a woman alone and vulnerable.
Our mission this time was to help build a church in Pampatar on Margarita Island. We worked harder than we ever have on a missions trip. We poured bay after bay of a concrete floor without the help of any heavy equipment. We were the heavy equipment! We laid block to build the walls of the church. We tied re-bar, we shoveled dirt, and we consumed gallon after gallon of water. For 5 days we worked in hot (100-125 degrees F) and sticky weather to accomplish what we set out to do. We took a siesta every afternoon when the sun was at its highest so that we could eat lunch and rest to allow us to be more productive in the afternoons. We worked side by side with the locals until the sun went down, and sometimes some of the crew had to work even longer to use up the concrete that we had mixed so that none went to waste. I saw people push themselves far beyond what they would normally be physically or emotionally capable of. How? Only through the power that Christ provides which strengthens us in our weakness. I experienced it there and I continue to experience it now that I have returned. God continues to bless my life in so many unexpected ways.
We didn't work every second. We did have Sunday off plus one other day where we got to enjoy the local sights and spend time with the local people. I had the opportunity to go snorkeling for the first time in my life (I know, really?). I was amazed at the simple beauty of a sea urchin and the complex nature of the coral beds and the tides that pushed us around and around in the water. The island that we were on is off the northern coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean not all that far from Aruba. There is a beauty there which I have never seen before, but hope to experience over and over again in my life. God gives us this beauty as a gift and we can choose how to experience that gift - with eyes wide open, or through our cynical nature. I try so hard to set aside my cynicism and more often than not, I fail miserably. But trips like this truly change me and how I view this world that we live in. I am blessed.