Monday, August 7, 2017

IMB Mission Meeting in Mexico 2017

We recently returned from a week-long trip to Mexico to attend a mission meeting with our IMB mission family serving in the Americas.  The last meeting we had like this was in 2014 so we were excited about getting back together again with friends we have not seen in quite a while.  Let me just go ahead and say a big THANK YOU to Southern Baptists who made this meeting possible for all of us.  Words just cannot describe what it is like to be able to gather together for fellowship, networking, and training with other IMB personnel.  What a blessing it was to sit with other homeschool moms and encourage each other in our roles as wives, mothers, teachers, and missionaries.  To be able to sit down with fellow workers and share a cup of coffee as we laugh about the struggles we all face was a treat.  Our kids got to spend the week with other MK's their age doing VBS and playing together.  It was such a special time for them.  For just a while we were all able to break away and gather with those who make us feel normal again.   Missionary life can be hard.  We are all in this together and we are reminded of it when we get to gather together.  It was a wonderful week. We left with hearts full of joy and eager to continue the task before us.

the boys ready to board our first flight from Jackson to Atlanta

More wings for the boys.  They are getting quite a collection this summer.

Our next flight was Atlanta to Cancun.  I snapped this photo of David and I on that flight as we reminisced about the last time we were flying to Cancun.  It was on our honeymoon back in April 1996.  It has been 21 years since that trip.  We were excited about returning.

We arrived in Cancun in the late afternoon and caught our bus to the hotel.  We didn't actually stay in Cancun but a little over an hour away in Riviera Maya.  Here are David and Ben on that bus ride.

We had a very busy schedule while there.  Our days began with breakfast at 7:00.  We would drop the kids off at 8:00 for VBS class and then our sessions would begin at 8:25.   With the exception of one free afternoon we had class every day until 4:30.  We spent time with leadership getting to know them and hearing about the direction we are going as an organization.  We learned how to do new programs and reports that will be rolling out soon.  We had several break out sessions on different topics of interest.  We had a fun silent auction with proceeds going to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  Over $59,000 was collected by the end of the week.  Overall we laughed, cried, shared out hearts, and lifted each other up in ways that was just beautiful.  The days got very long and tiring but the content was most always good.

We began every morning with worship and Bible study.  Our IMB mission President, David Platt, was there to teach us.  Just getting to hear him preach every day was a treat in itself.  He encouraged me and blessed my heart in so many ways with the messages he brought us each morning.   

We had a servant team from Brainard Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN come down to be with us for the week.  The team did VBS with the children, worked with the youth and college students, led worship, and just loved on everyone.  What a blessing they were to all of us!  Here is the wonderful worship team that lead us each morning.  They did an awesome job.

I didn't take any photos of meetings, break times, or just hanging out with friends.  I wish that I had done a better job of that but I think I was just too busy in fellowship.  I did, however, take some family photos in the afternoons and evenings.  When we would pick the kids up at 4:30 we would have a short time each afternoon to swim/ play before going to supper.  Most days the boys chose to go to the pool but a few days we walked down to the ocean.  It was so beautiful there!  The pictures just do not capture the beauty.

a family photo after an evening walk on the beach

another night out by the ocean

The pool where the boys would choose to swim most every afternoon.  Many of the kids their ages would gather there and play together. 

After the first day of VBS when I picked Cruz up he came running out to me excited to tell me about the new friend he had made.  The conversation went a little something like this:
Cruz:  Mama, I made a new friend today!
Me:  Oh great!  What is his name?
Cruz:  HER name is Sophia!
The two of them were almost inseparable the rest of the week.  Her mom and I had been roommates a few years ago at a homeschool conference in Lima, Peru so we were both a little tickled to learn that our kids had bonded.  They had the best week together and I am excited that they will be getting together again later this year for a homeschool meeting.

David and Cruz cooling off in the pool

Cruz and Sophia on the slide

the beautiful ocean

Cruz said the water was like Moana water (from the Disney movie)

Cruz prefers the pool but Ben loves the ocean

building sandcastles with a new MK friend

During one of our evening walks we saw an octopus swimming in the ocean.  It's the green glob in the middle of the picture.

A video of the octopus swimming.  My camera recorder doesn't have a light so it was a little dark. 

The hotel property had a dolphin area with several dolphins inside.  You could walk up at any time and watch them swim.  They offered shows throughout the week but we were always in class and missed them.  The boys both got to go with their classes and loved seeing it. 

watching the dolphins swim one night after supper

Our breakfast and lunch meals were all buffet.  Our evening meals were a mixture of buffet and restaurant style. 
enjoying an Italian meal

Our favorite meal of the week was a Japanese meal we had.  The servant team offered to babysit one night for a two hour time slot to allow the parents a date night.  While our boys were having a blast at a Pinata Party we were enjoying a nice, quiet meal alone.  What a treat that was (and a delicious one too!)

an onion volcano

date night

yum yum!

fried ice cream for dessert

David celebrated a birthday while we were there so that evening we had a seafood dinner and were joined by some dear missionary friends the Stones. 

Happy birthday, David!

Ben with his VBS teachers

Cruz with his VBS teachers

The kids did the Galactic Starveyors VBS program during the week.  At the end of the week they had a presentation for the parents.

Ben at the program

We had a time of recognition for those completing 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years of missionary service.  David and I completed ten years last October and received a certificate for our faithful service.  It was an honor and an accomplishment that we are most proud of.

10 years and counting

Our last session was to honor those who served before us.  If there is one thing that most always will bring tears to my eyes it is thinking about the many faithful missionary servants who have gone before us and paved the way.  Many names ran across my mind of precious folks who have walked alongside us and mentored us in this journey.  I will be forever grateful for how they have invested in our lives and ministry.  I envisioned a relay where the baton was passed off to us and I felt an overwhelming burden of wanting to run our leg well.  I also felt convicted about investing in others that might one day go on after us.  

There is much to be said for the respect of those behind us but oh what great love and respect we also have for those serving with us on the field around the world today.  Getting to get together to encourage and challenge each other was a priceless gift.  We are an army of fellow missionaries going to battle each day with each one doing their part to spread the Gospel.  We each have a common goal of seeing the nations come to Christ. We know that in days of triumph and in days of despair we are not alone.  We have an army of over 40,000 U.S. Baptist churches behind us lifting us up in prayer and support.  What an awesome thought that is and equally encouraging.  I am honored and proud to be a part of such a great family of believers.  To God be the glory for the great things He has done and is continuing to do in the lives and ministries of each of us.  As we gathered around and said our goodbyes it was a little bittersweet because we know that many are going back to hard places and hard jobs. The good news is they are going back with a new zeal to do those jobs well.  Thank you again to Southern Baptists for such a wonderful, uplifting, and encouraging week.

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