Day 3 by Gracie Bartel

Hi my name is Gracie Bartel; I am 17 and go to Providence High School.  This is my first international mission trip. It has been quite the experience so far. I am really enjoying myself and already learned so much about the culture. It is cool to speak Spanish to people who are not my classmates. The views everywhere are gorgeous and the people are so nice. Today at the work site I washed rocks and shoveled dirt and helped setup lunch. There were many odd jobs to be done and I wanted to help with all. There are so many dogs everywhere and they are sweet , we named most of them after characters from the Emperor’s New Groove. At lunch we ate this super yummy soup and I spilled some on my pants and now everybody calls me “Barfpants.”  Basically everything here is different from in the US.



Peru Day 2 by Caroline Alba

Yesterday, on our flight to Peru, I sat next to a woman who I didn’t know. If you asked me before our journey about what I was most excited for, you probably heard me enthuse about practicing my Spanish with Peruvian people. On the flight to Miami I sat next to two Spanish speakers and I was determined to make conversation. When one of them sneezed I said bless you, but in ENGLISH. UGH! I missed my chance. Luckily, we had another flight to Lima and I sat next to two Spanish speakers again. The woman next to me didn’t seem to understand English, so I was quiet in the beginning. A few hours into the flight, I had to use the restroom very badly and I didn’t want to go to the lavatory as that would disturb my seatmates. I practiced saying I need to use the restroom in my head in Spanish a few times until I finally said to the woman next to me “Senora, Necessito usar al bano” (Ma’am I need to use the restroom). I then quickly slid out of my seat and to the restroom as she mumbled something that I didn’t understand. When I returned, she spoke again and I could only understand a few words. I heard “rapido” and “linda” (quickly and pretty/small) and then I realized that she was saying I moved very quickly to the restroom because I was so skinny. She was probably confused as how I was able to afford a trip to Peru as in most South American cultures, being fat is a sign of wealth and being skinny is a sign of poverty. I’m not sure if she meant it as a compliment, but that’s how I took it and said “Gracias”.

After a bit of small talk later, I told her that I was going to Peru with my church to do Mission Work (“Trabajo de Cristo”). I gave her a rundown of our itinerary and told her that we were going to help the children (“Ayadamos los ninos”) which we technically are since we are building a multi-purpose room. Then she said something that I didn’t understand. She repeated it three times so I knew that it was important. Then she broke down, and I got it. Yo se rezare, yo se rezare, yo se rezare—I will pray for you.

A woman that I just met, that I could barely communicate with, said that she would pray for me, for us as we help others is Peru. Wow. I was a little surprised by this. I appreciated her support and promise to pray, but I never expected a stranger to be so inviting and kind. The next day, another flight, and a bus ride later, we were in Urcos. The Peruvians again surprised me by their warm- welcomes. The Peruvian Christians at the church where we had worship and supper constantly referred to us as brothers and sisters in Christ and praised us for pledging to work with them. They were so appreciative of us; it was almost as if they thought God sent us to save them. Then I wondered if they welcomed all American groups with such wide-arms. Our translators, Sara and Rusty, continued to tell us that people in Peru love their culture, love their towns, and want to share their culture. I didn’t completely believe them until today. I don’t think that I have ever spoken to so many strangers in Spanish before. It was so exciting! And a little stressful. At dinner, Tess Kelly was talking to the band that played for us during worship. She seemed so relaxed and was able to communicate effectively. Well, for the most part she was spitting out random facts, such as the United States has 50 states, but regardless the Peruvians were very entertained.

I am excited to meet new people tomorrow and adjust to the hole-in-the-ground toilets at the work site.

Blessings and Buenas Noches!

Caroline Alba

Wow, Christianity DOES spread worldwide. I know that that is super cliché, but I started to understand the un-explicit, non-verbal bonds that people hold through religions; religion surpasses any language barrier. And even though I didn’t understand most of the worship service at the Urcos Church, I knew that they praise God in the same way we do


Day One — We Arrived!

IMG_1615.JPGDay One – We Arrived

After a long day of travel, we arrived in Lima and checked into our hotel at 1:00 a.m. local time.  Unfortunately, we have to be ready to go at 5:45 a.m. to catch our flight to Cusco.  A four hour night of sleep to begin mission trip is always a great way to start!  At least most of us slept on the plane ride to Lima for a little bit!

We are excited to be here, but it might take a little bit of caffeine to help show that excitement!

Changing Gears

The Great Escape has come and gone.  While some of us are still catching up on our sleep, others are riding the excitement of the week.  The struggle is real to remember the closeness to each other, the feel of the Holy Spirit right next to us, and thrill of being with 700 other middle school students.

However, for me (Adrian Martin), at least, it is time to change gears.  The High School Mission Trip to Peru departs tomorrow morning, so I am back in the office switching out things that I needed at The Great Escape for the things I will need for Peru.  Do I have all of the medical forms?  Passports?  Will everyone remember to wear their t-shirts?  How many last minute questions will I get from parents?  Did I remember to take my altitude sickness medication?  Have I got everything I need packed away?  Will I remember to leave or check my pocket knife?

So many things to flip from one trip to another, but it is all worth it!  Seeing the middle school students last week on fire and the prospect of opening the eyes to the global mission Sardis is involved in next week is a wonderful feeling!

As a wrap up for The Great Escape, I have been asked to list the songs that we sung in worship all week.  Here they are:

  • Falling Into You – Hillsong, Young, & Free
  • I Can’t Let Go – Alex Sasser
  • Safe Place – Alex Sasser
  • Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin
  • For the Cross – Bethel
  • Oceans – Hillsong
  • Real Love – Hillsong, Young, & Free
  • Our God – Chris Tomlin
  • Sons & Daughters – Bret Stanfill
  • Close – Hillsong, Young, & Free
  • Holy Spirit – Kari Jobe
  • Worthy of Your Name – Sean Curran

Also, here is the link to the 488 pictures we took with the church camera this past week:

As the high school youth and adults prepare to depart tomorrow for our mission trip, I ask that you keep us in your prayers.  Pray that God will open our eyes to see how God is working in the world and for us to see how Sardis is making a kingdom difference!


Day 5 – To Everything…

Day 5 – To Everything…

All good things must come to an end, including our week at The Great Escape.  The conference was rejuvenating for the soul, with the lively music and worship, the wonderful speakers, and engaging family time with our youth and adults.  Some have made friends they will stay in contact with through various social media.  (Side note, parents, some of you might be asked to take a trip to Dalton, GA in the near future to meet up with some girls from another youth group, but that’s another story for another day….)

Today was Crud Day, a day to play in slime, yuck, guck, shaving cream, and pretty much anything else that is nasty.  Unfortunately, rain and lightning came and forced us inside quicker than we would have liked.  We were able to participate in two games and it was plenty to get us all messy, but it was not nearly enough for most of us.  Everyone got messy, whether they planned to or not.  Even the adult leaders were not safe, as Melinda found out when she was on her way to get the camera and wound up with two large handfuls of yuck in her hair courtesy of Adrian.

Throughout our week, we talked about having freedom in Jesus, hiding from God and from each other, being a part of a Christian community, and how we respond to God’s love in our lives.  Each youth has been touched by this week, whether they are here for the first time or for the third time.  The adult leaders have enjoyed spending this time with the 18 young people, who have kept us energetic, on our toes, full of laughter, and trying new things.  (Adrian was dancing it up at the dance party tonight, which is definitely a new thing for him!)

Ecclesiastes 3 begins:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

     a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

As we come to the end of our week, we head home, knowing that there is a time to come to this conference and a time to go home.  Tomorrow it is time to go home.  We now get to figure out how we take what we discussed and what we experienced this week to our lives back home in Charlotte.  Will we be changed?  Will we make a difference?  Will we live a life of gratitude to God?  Only time will tell.

For now, it is a time to pack.  And to clean.  And to sleep so the drivers stay awake on the bus ride home.

It has been a good week and one that was not possible without dedicated adults like Jenny, Melinda, and Harry.  This also would not have been possible without the support of Sardis Presbyterian Church.  Thank you to everyone who makes this week possible!

Day 4 – Exhaustion

Day 4 – Exhaustion

It is getting to be that time of the week: the students don’t fight nearly as much about going to bed.  The leaders are making daily (hourly?) runs to Dunkin’ Donuts to get caffeine.

The week has been great, but it is taking its toll.  The heat, the walking, the playing are all catching up to us.

Today, we had the Ultimate Sports Challenge where Sardis played other churches in a variety of sports.  Needless to say, we did not do too well in any of the sports, but everyone seemed to have a good time!  Our true moment to shine came during the 3v3 basketball challenge tonight where some of our 8th grade guys took home the championship by lasting through 5 games.  Way to go Ethan, Jon, Jarrett, and David!

On a sad note, we had to say good-bye to Jenny as she needed to travel home to be with her family.  Jenny, we love you and are praying for you, Kevin, Emma, and Isabel!  We know you are here with us in spirit and we love what you brought to our discussions, worship, and play.  Thank you for all you have done!  Now, take care of your family!

With the late hour (almost 1 a.m. again), lack of sleep, and physical exhaustion (one of our adult leader’s FitBits registered 10,000 steps BEFORE lunch today!), this is a short post.

Please continue to pray for us as we continue on our spiritual journey and experience God through the keynote, evening speaker, worship, and family time.

Day 3 — They Get It!

Day 3 – They Get It!

In youth ministry, there are some times that really stand out as “Ah-ha!” moments for the youth.  Tonight was one of those nights.  At The Great Escape, this night is commonly known as commitment night, where the youth are invited to continue their journey with Jesus by simply making it a conscience decision.

From time to time, people ask me when I’ve been saved.  They are usually looking for specific time and place when I made a decision to be a Christian.  For example, after I was once asked this question, the person proceeded to tell me that they were saved when they were nine years old in their closet at their house.  As a reformed Presbyterian, I, Adrian Martin, usually have a different answer to that question.  “When were you saved?”  “About two thousand years ago,” I say.

I believe that God does the saving and there is nothing that we can do about it.  Through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are saved.  One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  In the Gospel According to Adrian, the phrase, “…including me…” right after “…nor anything else in all creation…”  In my mind and heart, there is not a thing I can do to attain salvation or lost it.  It is a God thing and not a me thing.  Thank God for that!

Tonight, we talked a lot about those verses as we talked about God as the save agent, and not us.  We commit our lives to following Jesus, but we need to continually do so.  “Take up your cross daily and follow me,” Jesus says in Luke 9:23.  This is not a one and done.  It is on-going.

Tonight, as we gathered a group and discussed the gift God gave us in God’s Son Jesus, someone asked the important question: How should we respond?  How do we say thank you to our Creator for such an amazing gift?  What could we possibly give that compares?

That’s when I knew they were getting it.  We talked about ways in which we can live a life of gratitude to God in all that we do.  One of the youth blew me away with his answer.  He said that he feels called to make others laugh.  We talked about why laughing was important and came to the conclusion that laughter helps to break down the walls we create, the walls we hide behind.  Laughter heals.  Laughter brings us together.  This amazing youth felt called by God to share the gift of laughter with others.  That is his response to God’s amazing gift!

He got it.  He understood tonight what it means to live a life in gratitude to God.

My prayer is that he, and all of the youth that have attended this conference, remember this when we arrive home and are back in the midst of everything that makes us put up our walls and hide from each other.

May God bless you in all that you do and may you find a way to live a life of gratitude to God!