SO much... the year is off to a roaring start, for better and worse.
Costa Rica. An incredible trip, I was surprised and blessed by the make up of the group of the mission team Hyemin and I were invited to travel to and work in Costa Rica with. The average age of the group nearing 70, the stamina and incredibly hard work with such impressive results of this group blew me away. With any trip, this one brought with it highs and lows, and I am certainly a better person for this trip. I was unfortunately able to do very little (manual) labor/work while there, but the work I did in conversation (I picked up Spanish again much quicker than I anticipated, thankfully!) and in spending time with folks in the community were great. My first international mission trip (first trip with a mission team, that is), I learned a great deal about missions, etc. My favorite part? Witnessing the love, fellowship, friendships, and family that our group (specifically our trip leaders) shared with this community. They have been working together for 14 years, and their relationships are incredible gifts as a result of such efforts.
Promptly upon returning to forms of communication such as email and phone, I was alerted to a difficult and scary situation of my close friends, Ross and Amanda Baker. You may recall my great celebration in their first child just one month ago... and James Bennett is still doing great! Unfortunately, it is Mom who has been having some major troubles. It is public knowledge by now... and I could perhaps spend hours filling in details, but sparring them I say only that this family has been on a terrible rollercoaster. When James was only two weeks old, Amanda discovered a tumor that was initially believed to be cancer, and was later discovered to be a rare genetic disease known as Juvenile Polyposis... making this long story short, she has had major surgery and had her colon removed... all things considered she is doing very well! She was even released from the hospital on Friday, and will now be getting care from the comfort of "home" - they are residing back in Kansas with family.
I am so thankful she is doing well, and could not begin to articulate here how very difficult even this past week has been. I miss my dear friends so much, and while I am VERY thankful they are in Kansas surrounded by a great many friends and family who can support them, I miss them very much and wish there were more we could do for them from here. It sure is encouraging, though, to know that "literally thousands of people are praying" for them, as Ross pointed out. Incredible! (you're welcome to join in the prayers... they need them!). In the middle of all of this, James has turned one month old and the pictures prove he is healthy and rapidly growing!!
The spring semester has begun, and I am already deep into spring texts. There are many other things to update on in this crazy life I lead, but these must wait for another night. Tonight, I just needed to express my great thanksgiving for incredible people in my life. This weekend alone I was able to catch up with NINE friends I hold dear (including a surprise visit form Ross who was here to pick up somethings they left behind). I hope this is symbolic of the new semester to come, full of friends, fellowship, prayer and community. Without these things, I cannot imagine where I (we) would be.