Sunday, December 11, 2016

This Beautiful House

Gabriel is seven years old. He lives in the Dominican Republic. This is his home. He is one of five adults and 10 children living here. We have prayed for and sponsored Gabriel through Compassion International for just over a year, and it was our privilege to meet him and visit his home this week. 

Before our visit, I was unsure how I would react to visiting Gabriel's home. Would I be overwhelmed with pity? Compassion? Heart ache for this family living in poverty?

I was quite unprepared for my reaction that day. As strange as it might seem, the word that entered my mind as I walked down the dirt hewn steps into Gabriel's world 

I couldn't explain this feeling at first, but after spending the day visiting with his grandmother, great-grandmother, siblings, aunt, and cousins, having lunch together, and throwing a baseball, I understand now why my first impression of Gabriel's home was beauty. 

This is the house his family built with their own hands.

This is the yard where he plays with siblings and cousins. 

This is where his clothes are diligently hand washed and hung to dry in a beautiful display of color.

This is where his family planted a plantain tree so that they had a reliable source of food.

This is where his grand mother lives a life of faith, prays for Gabriel, and has promised to pray even for us. 

This is where his great grandmother joyfully smiles though sick and unable to walk. 

This is where his mother and new baby sibling will return when they get out of the hospital. 

This is the painting right over where Gabriel sleeps with his mother and brothers. 

This is where I saw Gabriel laughing. 

This is the place where Gabriel is happy.

This is where I saw him loved. 

And I am so thankful. 

And because of the life-giving work of Compassion International, I know Gabriel will not fall through the cracks. Through Compassion, he will have regular medical check-ups, needed medicine and food, educational tutoring, social, emotional, and spiritual teaching. 

Gabriel's house was beautiful. Because what makes a house beautiful isn't the walls, roof, or floors, the pictures or furnishings. What makes a house beautiful is the love inside, and there was evidence of plenty of that in Gabriel's house. 

Lest this post offer too idyllic a picture of Gabriel's life, please allow me to give a few extra facts that I think will help.

Gabriel's house floods whenever it rains, so that family is forced to evacuate when this happens. For a glimpse of the difficulty flooding looks like for a family, I recommend the movie, The Queen of Katwe.

With 15 people living in the house, it feels too small for them.

When we took Gabriel to lunch, he ate so much food so fast, that his grandmother had to warn him to slow down lest he hurt his stomach.

His grandmother is unable to work currently because she is home taking care of Carnella, Gabriel's sick, but joyful great grandmother. Gabriel's family asked us to pray they find a job and source of income.

Gabriel's grandmother told us that his mother does know know the Lord, but she is starting to attending church occasionally, please pray that she comes to know him.

If you would like to sponsor a child through Compassion, click my unique sponsorship link here. For every 10 children sponsored, Gabriel's family will receive a gift from Compassion!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Graneys Go Sabbatical Update #4: Totally Free Stuff to do in Boston, NYC and DC!

Before I get to the totally free stuff, let me just say that on the way to Boston, we had an AMAZING time visiting with our friends Angel and Amy Silva in Portland, Maine. The Silvas were part of a couple's Bible study group with us at Dallas Theological Seminary that met every Sunday night for two years, but we haven't seen the Silvas since graduation! Saturday evening, we feasted on great conversation, Amy's delicious pork tenderloin and Angel's homemade ginger kombucha. Sunday morning, we visited their church, Missio Dei. Angel is preaching the Gospel in an area of our country that sometimes isn't very accepting of Christians, and we are so thankful for their ministry and so glad we had to chance to stay and catch up with these awesome friends!  

And.....before we get to NYC and DC, you have to see all the fun free stuff we did in Boston so here goes:

Okay this isn't quite Boston yet, it's the Portland Headlight! Such a beautiful lighthouse and rocky coast, but we did freeze there so our visit didn't last we were on the way to Bunker Hill in Boston, Caleb's most anticipated historical site:

This is where the US Continental Army showed the British what they were up against. The British lost a third of their troops trying to gain back this little hill. While they succeeded, it took them three tries, and it proved that our ragtag group of farmers become soldiers had a chance against the world's greatest superpower of the time. You can climb up all 296 steps in this monument and see all of Boston for free from there. Yes, we did climb it. And yes, I was the last one to make it to the top.

The best thing about Boston has to be the beautiful row houses, and they are everywhere.

While a lot of the Boston leaves had already fallen, some of the beauty remained. This is Anna walking through the Boston Common where the British troops set up camp for 8 long years before the revolution.

That circle on the ground indicates where the Boston Massacre happened, just in front of the Old State House on the Freedom Trail. Inside the building is where folks like Paul Revere and Samuel Adams discussed unfair British taxation of tea, but you have to pay to go inside...however we discovered you can go in the gift shop inside and see the beautiful circular winding staircase in the middle for free! :)

This is one of the oldest examples of 18th century architecture in Boston, and I was delighted to see that it currently houses a Chipotle!

Another free thing to do in Boston is accidentally find your way into the huge indoor shopping mall just after closing so you or  your children aren't tempted to spend any money.

You can also tour the New State House for free and see what is inside that beautiful golden dome on the top. We stepped into a Massachusetts meeting of the House of Representatives and sat for a few minutes. On the way out, we even witnessed this protest outside! I don't think I've ever heard the words: equality, liberty, and freedom more times in the five minutes I listened than anywhere else. But if you're going to be talking about equality, liberty and freedom, Boston is the historical place to do it right?

We also saw the final resting place of Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin's parents, and several other signers of the Declaration of Independence. The graveyard is free to enter and full of fascinating fading and falling tombstones. Boston is my favorite! Now on to NYC:

The first and greatest thing to do in NYC is obviously....Times Square! All the glittery lights and advertising you can imagine!

Okay maybe I should have said this lady first:

Lady Liberty is free to see, but to climb up into her crown, you make reservations online about 6 months ahead of time.

About the climb up into the crown.

What isn't free is the boat ride over to her :)

The next best free thing is Central Park:

If you're lucky enough to end up there at Thanksgiving, the Macy's Day Parade is a totally FREE event! We read that you should get there around 6am to claim a spot, however, we opted to stand in the cold for 4 hours instead of 6 and got there at 8 (after all, this is a sabbatical :) and were perfectly happy with the amazing spot we found to stand close to the road.

After almost 4 hours of parading, I couldn't have been happier to see Santa Clause show up!

Other ideas for free stuff to do in NYC:

Visit Grand Central Station

Get your picture taken with the smallest police car in NYC.

Pretend you are staying at the Plaza Hotel and get kicked out.

How could I forget the 9/11 Memorial?

Find the Empire State Building and realize you've been pointing to the Chrysler Building and calling it the Empire State building all week.

Take your picture with a police officer, whether he wants you to or not.

Find Trump tower and notice there aren't any protestors around.

Make your way past the police who aren't letting people walk by Trump Tower by telling them that you are visiting Trump Tower and take a ride on the escalators inside.

Oh, and it's not free, but to eat cheap in NYC do this:

Eat hot dogs in Central Park ....or do this:

Order the largest pizza you have ever seen for just $12 in Jersey.

It's free to walk in New York City! We averaged 7 miles of walking a day. Intermixing a week of rest, with a week of sight seeing has been a good mix for us. With five kids in tow, it has allowed us to relax, have fun, learn somethings and make some good memories together as a family and we are incredibly thankful for the opportunity we have had to do this.

And finally....say goodbye to NYC and head to DC, but realize you aren't going to blog about DC tonight because you are tired and this post is already way too long.

Stay tuned for Totally Free stuff to do in DC next time!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Responsibility of Each Generation: Graneys Go Sabbatical Week 3

Lots of memories were made the last 9 days at Word of Life Camp in Schroon Lake, New York. We enjoyed sleeping later, cooking our own meals, hiking in the woods, attending chapel and a class at Word of Life Bible Institute, visiting the 1980 Olympics sites in Lake Placid, climbing up to overlooks and water falls, and making cookies and popcorn each evening while watching all 5 Rocky movies! The movies were surprisingly better than I remembered!  “Yo Adrianne! We did it!”

On Monday, we took a day trip over to Niagara Falls. We crossed over to the Canadian side and enjoyed this fantastic display of beauty and rushing waters! The boys were tempted to climb and hang over the railing, but since there was no sign of superman or even Clark Kent around, we discouraged it.

We had a lovely meal on a beautifully decorated table with china and delicious food at Carol Lough’s house. We have known Carol since her husband, Don, was on staff at Tulsa Bible Church in the early years of our marriage. It was delightful to visit and catch up with her and her son Don’s family. Don is the Executive Director of Word of Life.

Speaking of Word of life, if you have never heard of this incredible ministry, let me have the pleasure of introducing you! Word of Life was started by an evangelist, Jack Wyrtzen who travelled the US, starting Bible clubs and preaching the gospel in the 1940’s. In the Jack Wyrtzen center, there is a photo of the audience where he filled Madison Square Gardens with people coming to hear the gospel. We’re standing in front of it and his podium below. Random connection, Jack Wyrtzen’s son, Dave Wyrtzen pastored my grandparent’s church in Texas. I always enjoyed hearing Dave’s preaching when we would visit their church as I was growing up.

Jack Wyrtzen bought an island in Schroon Lake, NY in 1946 and Word of Life Camp began. Today, Word of Life is an international presence, with active ministries in 69 different countries around the world, hosting 82,280 campers this past year at Word of Life Camps. There are also 14 Word of Life Bible Institutes in: Brazil, USA, Canada, Argentina, Germany, Hungary, the Philippines, South Korea, Uganda, Ukraine and Venezuela.

Jack Wyten said, “It is the responsibility of the youth of each generation to reach their generation for Christ.” What are you doing to reach your generation for Christ?

Okay, so now, here comes a plethora of photos! Maybe too many photos but……enjoy!
We found Lewis and Clark!

It got really hot hiking up here. No, really.
I shed down to a tank top by the end but you won't see that here.

Mount Severence overlooking Schroon Lake. We decided we kinda like each other!

This was a pretty big waterfall.
Oh, it's Niagara Falls!

You can't really see it here, but the energy in this room was amazing!  Chapel at the Bible Institute.
Somebody likes the gold.

Posing for medals. I let Abigail win of course.

We tried to get Caleb to slide down this 1980's Olympic ski jump, but he declined for some reason.
Do you believe in miracles?
Site of 1980 hockey game where Olympic history was made in historic US win over Russia.

This guy did! Pretty cool inscription.

We'll call this mirror lake.

And here we're jumping.....because that's what you do at mirror lake...
See the kids way up high? Don't worry, I told them not to slip.
I think I like it here....this sabbatical journey.