He’s right in front of me.

Well, it’s been awhile, y’all. Figured before I get back on the homework bandwagon and while I’m doped up on cough syrup (thanks bronchitis), I’d share about what’s been happening.

Here’s a snapshot of the past two months:
School.
School.
More school.
And did I mention school? 

This semester has been tougher than most, that’s for sure. I can be happy in the fact that it’s my last all gen-ed semester (Praise the Lord), and that I will never have to step foot in a math class ever again. All in all, it’s been a busy semester.

Part of my semester has been preparing for our mission trip to Cozumel.  Even typing those words at this point puts a lump in my throat. It’s taken me from the time we landed in Nashville Saturday night to now to be able to formulate the words to describe this experience.

view from our rental house-The Mirage
Stepping on the grounds literally took my breath away

We spent from early November to the days prior to spring break to prepare for our week together in Cozumel loving on the 40+ kids at Ciudad de Angeles (a true city of angels, that’s for sure!). 

I’ve never been on a mission team before that put so much time and energy into the team and the trip beforehand. I believe it made a major difference in our week. It meant the world to get to serve with people I already had the pleasure of calling my friends.

All the lovely ladies on the trip!

Stepping onto Ciudad’s campus for the 1st time was such a surreal moment. After hearing about this place for months, it was the craziest thing to actually see it in full form.
It was a little nerve wracking walking into a place where I didn’t know anyone, let alone didn’t speak the language. The kids however made it easy for us; they jumped right in, so we did too.

I’ll tell you about two specific little girls that God taught through this week. They really showed me that God works right in front of me, always.

I walked around for a little while and talked to some older and younger kids before venturing to the basketball court, where I saw a cute little girl sitting by her house mama. I went up and said hi and asked her name, when her Mom (Ophelia) told me she was deaf. I stepped away, close by, and just began watching the kids. A few seconds later, Ophelia tapped me on the shoulder- apparently the little girl wanted me meet me! She introduced me to my angel Marce, and the rest is Ciudad history.

Smoresfest with Marce!

This little lady stole my heart from the minute she stepped into it. We sat and played games (hand clapping games, simon says, and one game which required me to bounce her up and down in the air. She LOVED that one).  Since on Saturday we met in the dark, I wasn’t sure she’d recognize me at church. I was wrong! She came running and sat between me and Andrew (my friend that I shared her with for the week;) ).

Love this picture-Marce after church

After that night, we sought each other out each day. Some days she’d rather go play with the boys that could pick her up and roughhouse. Other days she’d come and we’d sit and just be silly together. Her laugh and smile make my heart want to burst. I miss her laugh the most. It just echoes throughout the room! 
Somethings that Marce taught me this week:
There is no excuse to not love someone. I was worried about connecting because of the language barrier. So God gave me this little angel, that while I couldn’t effectively communicate with  all the time (I plan to learn how to sign before next year’s trip!), I could easily connect with through playing, laughter, and smiles. God taught me that language does NOT have to be a barrier if you’re willing to let God just work through you. It wasn’t always easy, but God truly did work this week through Marce to teach me a lot. I miss that sweet face more than I thought possible! 
That laugh is music to my ears!
Missing that sweet smile right about now.
She also taught me about what love looks like. I can not see the words “I love you” the same anymore. They have so much more power now than before Ciudad. Saying I love these kids is an understatement! I love you doesn’t adequately describe it.
Before I’d leave each day, I’d do the “I love you” sign to Marce. Somedays she’d just look at me and shake her head in her sassy way, as if to say, “I’m not in the mood!” by the time I’d leave, however, I’d always see that “I love you” sign from her. The last night we took a picture of us signing “I love you” to each other. I just can’t describe.

“I love you”- three simple words, one massive impact.

One of my favorite moments of the whole trip was on Sunday, before leaving the orphanage I did the sign for a hug; at first she just shook her head at me, but after doing it a 2nd time, she literally ran at me, wrapped her arms around me and kissed my neck. It took everything in me to keep from crying! After two days there, seeing that kind of love just changed me.

It made my heart smile seeing the love all of these kids have. They all come with a lot of baggage- baggage that makes my own look minuscule in comparison- yet they have such endless joy and love to go around.

There’s a little backstory before I tell you about this next sweet angel.
Before the trip, we have a meeting where we are introduced to each angel and given a prayer angel. Prayer angels are our specific angels we pray over for the months prior to the trip. We get 1-2 angels- cards with their picture and story on them(veteran team members have the option of choosing kids they had a connection with the year prior). Then the rookies are given theirs. I was given two sisters. These sisters were part of the newest group of orphans to move to the home in November. Conny (8) and Cristi(2) are their names.

Conny (left) and Cristina (right). Big sis Anahi in the middle!

Every night I would pray specifically for these two girls- for them to feel God’s love, for them to know I loved them and the team loved them, and how much I couldn’t wait to finally meet them. I also prayed for God to work in me and our team to love on these kids. What I didn’t take into account was how God could work in these kids to reveal himself to me.  God taught me that night that sometimes what you’re seeking ends up seeking you right in front of your face! 

Well, the first night there I was hanging out with Marce at S’mores fest. She had gone to get something to eat and left me sitting at the fire. All of a sudden, a little girl came running towards me. She then wrapped her arms around my neck, and asked me my name. She then told me, “me llamas Conny!” (my name’s Conny). Upon hearing that, I looked up into the eyes of my prayer angel, Conny- the same face I saw in the picture above every night before going to bed, the same name I prayed over constantly for 5 months. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t found her or sought her out… she found me. She sought me out from the crowd. She didn’t know anything about me, anything about the fact that I already knew her name or her story… she just came and grabbed me by the hand and the heart. 
Conny at the pool!
My prayer angels- Conny and Cristi. God works in beautiful ways.
After that, everyday somehow Conny found me. I didn’t even have to look for her. Somehow she’d always show up! I spent a lot of time with her over the week, spending most of my time in the younger kids’ groups and houses. 
It was one of those moments where I literally could see a prayer being answered- getting to meet these two girls I had said in prayer by name every night. Getting to love on these angels I had so anxiously anticipated meeting for months.
It’s an indescribable feeling getting to see God answer a prayer in front of me. 
Conny’s new crown from Bible class!
The bracelet my baby Conny gave me! It’s still on my wrist.
The necklace hangs on my door so I see it everyday.
The last night, Conny held onto me for dear life! She found me from the get go and didn’t leave my side. It broke my heart knowing it was time to leave, but I promised her “proximo año” (next year). Before house church and while we were saying goodbyes (thankfully I went to the house church she and Marce went to, so I didn’t have to say goodbye quite yet!), Conny came up to me while talking to Mr. Gary. She presented me with two little pink necklaces, told me they were for me, and proceeded to try to put them on. She wrapped one around my wrist as a bracelet (where it is still right now), and put the other one on my neck (with Mr. Gary’s help).  It was here where I just lost it. I could not believe this little girl-the one I didn’t seek out, the one that found me everyday for no apparent reason-this little girl just continually sought me out and became Jesus to me in a way I’d never experienced it before. She showed me an indescribable love that only Jesus can bring.

Conny taught me something this week: God is constantly seeking us out, and if we’d just look, He’s usually right in front of us
My favorite picture of us together
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
One of my friends/teammates mentioned this verse in one of our morning devos, and it just stuck to me like glue this week. 
Sometimes I think I struggle with seeing God in my everyday; it takes a church service or worship song or quiet time for me to see God really working. It’s hard to seek God in the days that aren’t great, y’know?
 This week, God taught me to constantly seek Him in the midst of everything; I promise you, He’s there. He’s always seeking us, chasing after our hearts and our dreams. 
Last night with my angel
I’d like to think that if I was willing to actually seek Him, He’d be right in front of me, waiting. Just like Conny was all week. Running after me, seeking me out for no reason- He’s here, He’s there, He is constantly everywhere with me wherever I go.
Love this picture-Me, Conny,Daniela, and Conny’s big sis Anahi-I hope I can get to know her better next year!
So yes, God is indeed working at Ciudad. As Lydia so eloquently said, His fingerprints are everywhere there. 
 I realize that He’s working here too. I don’t have to go anywhere  or do anything special to figure that out (but I’m so glad I did); I just have to be willing to look up, and hold on. He’s gonna always be seeking me out, and He’ll most always be where I least expect Him-right in front of me. 

Carlos-love this boy. Taught me it’s ok to be silly sometimes!

I probably could tell you a dozen more stories about how God is working, but I think what I’ve already said tells you enough about this God-filled place. This experience-this place- is forever etched in my brain and heart.  I could not have been more blessed by this opportunity. I will without a doubt be returning next year to continue the relationships with Marce, and Conny, and  strengthen relationships the other angels. The stories, teammates, and love from this trip will never leave my life. I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to the people that made this trip possible, and to God for putting it on my heart to go love on these kids. It changed my life, and I can’t wait to see how it furthers my life back here at home. 
Mari Chui-one of our older girls. Sweetest thing.

Dinner at the lil kids house!

Carlos the king-we better watch out!
Isa and Norma at our teaching session
                                                         
We talked about this not being a mountaintop experience, and for me it wasn’t. It was an indescribable experience that I already miss terribly, that’s for sure (I cannot wait to go back!). It wasn’t as much a mountaintop experience as it was just a beautiful learning experience from God. I intend to take these faces, these angels, these stories and lessons and intertwine them into my life back here at Lipscomb. I don’t want it to be a mountaintop, but it for sure won’t be an experience I’ll ever forget.
One last look at this place I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with.
 I don’t think I can go back to life without Ciudad; and I know, with all my heart, that I really don’t ever want to.
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