Our destination: Barcelona. Our layover: Phoenix.
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|Alisha works on a mural at Jeremy and Siwan's house -- perhaps one of Alisha's favorite fundraising activities!|
|Camping, music, and food with John (and Julie) near|
Sedona, AZ. It was their second time camping ever!
The last several weeks have been filled with meals, miles and miles of driving, fantastic conversations, and live music -- all things we encounter in Lithuania but find in surplus in the Valley of the Sun.
|Josh going for a post-dinner stroll with roommate Sam.|
So when we see changes -- good and bad -- we recognize almost a parallel life that we gave up when we moved abroad. As Alisha often describes it, "Whole children happen while we are away. Relationships start and, unexpectedly, end. People we expect to see when we come back are gone and there are new people we've never seen before."
|Standing against injustice with Jesse.|
All this is to say that we cherish those of you we have (and have not) been able to visit this summer. This time we have in the U.S. fundraising is an incredible gift and it fuels us for the work we have ahead of us next year.
We've done our best to connect with as many individuals and families while in the Valley as we could, but we recognize logistics make it impossible for us to see everyone. Bellow is a video we made to give a glimpse of what we, your ambassadors, have been able to do thanks to you all.
(The clips of the orphans were intentionally blurred for their protection)
There are too many people to thank individually who help us out while we're stateside. To be embraced and supported by friends, loved ones, and even total strangers is overwhelming and humbling.
School is back in session. The students have returned from their holiday travels. The campus of LCC International University is buzzing. Our calendars are filling up already with events, celebrations, meetings and other tasks. As I sit in my office, working on budget updates, discipline reports, and other important emails my mind can't help but drift off to the fabulous holiday we had away from the LCC campus.
Josh and I had the tremendous privilege of having friends from the United States visit us from December 24 through December 30. Natalie and Bryan flew in on Christmas Eve and we set out to tour as much of Lithuania and Latvia as humanly possible in seven short days.
Although the journey was long (by kilometer), it was not tiresome. It's too bad that we couldn't travel like my friends The Muppets - by map. That would have made things much faster... Check out our journey!
|Insert Mennonite inside joke here.|
This tour took Josh and I from Klaipeda to Vilnius, from Vilnius to Riga Latvia, from Riga to Klaipeda, from Klaipeda back to Vilnius, from Vilnius to Moletai, from Moletai to Kaunus and from Kaunus back home to Klaipeda. That's 1,606 KM for those who keep track of such things. Praise God that the travel blessings flowed freely through our trip. It was not without it's hiccups, or shady bus situations, but we always felt warm and safe, but also a little bit like human ping pong balls (excuse me, Table Tennis balls - just in case Evan Oswald reads this).
We bundled up and toured churches, took photos, stayed in fun hostels, ate a LOT (mostly cheese and dried meats), sampled local beers, pet dogs (using my Lithuanian language skills), and had an all around superb time. Here are some photos from our adventures!
|Natalie delivered Christmas goodies - she knew just what I wanted!|
|On Christmas, we climbed the Vilnius "Pilis" and enjoyed a snowy day of sightseeing.|
|The holiday meal was followed by an evening of pub games at "Spunka," recommended by our Klaipedian friend Kipras.|
|Once we arrived in Klaipeda, Josh facilitated a "Concert for Friends" at Herkas Kantas - our favorite local pub. Friends Kel and Inga also performed.|
|"Let it snow, let it snow let it snow!" sings Josh!|
|A quick tour of Moletai before leaving for Klaipeda.|
When our journey finally ended, and we were back in Klaipeda, we were greeted by several letters, Christmas cards, and two special packages. It is always a great pleasure to receive mail here in Lithuania. I am particularly touched by all the people that take time out of their busy lives "back home" to think of us while we serve abroad. I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting mail, so it's always a special surprise to see what arrives -- especially during the holiday season.
|Cards and letters from loved ones afar.|
|On the same day we got two packages! One from our Trinity Family and a package from my sister Alison and her husband Zach!|
|A beautiful letter, lovely scarf and other goodies from Alison.|
|Josh loves his Christmas Present!|
|That's right, more Cheez-Its from both Trinity and Ali. No, I can NEVER have too many of these.|
|We might be able to hang this stocking with care from the TOP of the chimney.|
|Thank you for all your thoughtful notes and kind words.|
|Alisha gets rowdy at an Arizona United SC match. Thanks to Kristine Lantz for the free tickets!|
One thing we've been constantly learning -- and we've reaffirmed since returning to our family at Trinity Mennonite Church -- is the importance of coordinating with folks stateside so that can continue to receive life while serving far away. The past couple of years we've had a small team of friends who have done a good job of praying for us and wishing us well.
But, as rookie mission workers, we've had a learning curve. That why, 9 a.m. this Sunday, May 25, we are hosting an info breakfast to share specific needs we have for a team. Check out the video below:
We'll host it at Aaron Gouldthorpe's house, 4419 W. Vista Ave., Glendale, and anyone passionate about helping out is welcome. We ask, however, that you RSVP by late Friday so we have a sense of how much food to prepare.
Also, let us know if you're interested in being involved but can't make the meeting and we'll figure out a time we can chat about it.
Message below or e-mail GarberMinistryTeam@gmail.com for info and to RSVP.
|Local art and people watching -- Phoenix coffee shops have become our place of business for those days we're not reconnecting with folks.|
|"Forty words-per-minute? That's cute. How |
We're in the Valley longer this time and we want to spend it with you. Like last summer, the idea is that you invite us over for lunch or dinner and, in exchange, we share our experience of serving in Eastern Europe, and you can ask us questions.
If you're interested, we can even make you some authentic cuisine (potato pancakes and pink soup, anyone?) if you cover the cost of ingredients!
Here are our current travel plans:
May 10-June 10.......Arizona
June 11...................Travel Day
June 18...................Travel Day
June 25...................Return to Lithuania
We made a calendar below so you can see which days are available and which are already occupied.
Contact us via phone (602-549-1226) or e-mail (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) and let us know when you are free to kick it. We'll put it on our calendar and make sure we're there!
It would be fair to say we are also viewing this as an opportunity to raise funds, but please do not feel like that is a requirement. For planning reasons, please give us a few dates that would work for you.
Check back regularly as we will be posting about our other fundraising events as soon as we are able to confirm the dates.
Josh & Alisha