Reach

This is the End, Shut Down the Highways - Briana's Team

I will not be mentioning the company responsible for this as to not use this platform to slander their name and also because I forgot. Early on in the week, we received news from our wonderful neighbors, the Frankes, that a bomb was found near a major highway and they have that highway – and two other major highways – shut down to investigate and defuse it. Of course, bomb defusal is a surgical procedure and takes many hours, so it wasn’t until the end of the day that we got word that it was not, in fact, a bomb, but a traffic counter. The irony of it is that the company that found it, reported it, and shut down all the highways was the same company that put it there and forgot about it. The double irony was that the counter was put there to collect data. That data probably wasn’t very helpful after they shut down all the highways. Something tells me that, over the course of several hours early on in the week, there’s going to be an outlier in their graph. Way to go Anonymous Company. Data collection successful.

In other news: life is good, Phoenix is hot. I don’t mean to fill you all with envy, but the weather here has seriously been awesome. We just got back from vacation (which I think you can read about in the last blog?) and now we’re jumping back into things. We had our last Unite Phoenix on Saturday (For those of you who don’t know or can’t remember what Unite Phoenix is, it’s an event that takes place on one Saturday every month in which churches, college students, and other individuals come together to serve. Many ministries, including Aim Right, are represented). It’s sad to think that this is it for us, but I’m also encouraged seeing the growth in numbers each month and knowing that God has big plans for that event. I want to take that idea home with me and chew on it. Maybe God can use someone like me to unite the church where I live, bringing together people of different denominations, backgrounds, age groups, races, etc. and spend one Saturday a month serving with one another. The passage in scripture where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet always baffles me. John explains that Jesus has this realization that He’s going to die soon. In that moment, knowing his time with his disciples was coming to a close, he got up from dinner and washed their feet. Amazing. If I had that same realization, I would be booking trips and spending money on myself, trying to enjoy my final moments. Not Jesus. Jesus humbly served those around Him. Incredible. I want to take that home with me. At any moment, I could die. This is true for all of us. Why don’t we take advantage of our remaining days on earth and humbly serve those around us? I think that’d make God smile.

I hope everyone reading is ready with their stat books, because next you’ll be reading about sports updates from Phoenix. I have two games to cover, first of which will be Kelly’s volleyball game. Tragically, Kelly’s team has fallen short of victory, and Kelly even showed up at the right park this time. I suppose it’s too much to ask that she single-handedly carries her team to victory every week, but I think that’s where we’re at. Secondly, my soccer team had it’s division final on Sunday night. We lost. We went to double overtime, losing in penalties, but it was still a lot of fun. It’s been a pleasure playing with those guys. This has been sports updates in Phoenix.

And now for movie reviews: Shazam was pretty funny.

I want to conclude this blog by thanking everyone who reads them. It’s truly humbling hearing from all the people who read these and are interested in the work that God is doing here in Phoenix. It means the world to us that you care enough to keep up with what we’re doing and keep us in your prayers. That being said, it is from the bottom of my heart that I say, thank you. If you want to keep us in your prayers, we do still have a month of service here left. Please pray that we remain present where our feet are. It’s easy to autopilot near the end like this and focus on what’s coming next, but we pray that God continues to energize us for the work that’s left to do here.

Also, coming up soon is our Grand Canyon hike. Pray for our physical strength as we prepare for that. And Easter is going to be an exciting time here in Phoenix. We’ve bought and – with the help of Unite Phoenix volunteers – filled 10,000 plastic Easter eggs for a giant Easter egg hunt for the children in the community. We’ll also be taking the opportunity to tell people about the Easter service that a local church is hosting at Aim Right. We’re trying to pack out our sanctuary with families from the community who ordinarily wouldn’t attend church on Sunday. Pray that God shows up big for these events and reveals Himself to people who don’t know Him.

Thank you all again for reading and praying. Since our time here is running out, this is the last blog post that will be written by me, personally. There will still be weekly blogs until we leave, but this is the last one I’ll be writing. It’s been a pleasure writing for you all, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.

Blessings,

Connor

Birthdays and Vacation - Briana's Team

The beginning of the week we celebrated Connor and Katie's birthdays. We were in Mexico for Connor's, and Katie's was April 1st. Obviously we had to give Katie a hard time since her birthday lands on April Fool's day. Stephanie made two pies, one raisin and one peanut butter. We gave Katie the raisin pie having her think it's yummy peanut butter pie. We were hoping to get a reaction out of her and only got "my mom's peanut butter pie is better." She was a good sport about it even a good sport after she got cake smashed into her face.

Thursday began our team vacation. Briana and I chose Tucson for our destination. We wanted to make sure we still had nice warm weather and have access to a pool. Our vacation consists of movies, the show Parks and Rec, the pool, reading, puzzles, and lots of yummy food! Our first full day of vacation was by far the laziest for me. I regret not wearing my watch to see how little of steps I took that day.

Since I'm on vacation it has given me a lot of time to think. I think about how we only have almost a month left and how bittersweet it is. I have been really missing family, friends, and of course my cats. But, I have also been thinking about how I felt the first time I finished the program 2 years ago. I had a lot of thoughts about how I wish I would have worked harder in Montana (my outreach location). How I wished I would have spent more time with this person during training or this person during outreach. Or how I could have inserted myself more with others who don't know my Father. I'm sure I'll have these thoughts and more when I'm done this time around. We as humans are hard to please. Those sad wishful thoughts of me doing more my first time through the program helps me to live in the moment because some day I will look back and cry about how much I miss my time here serving with Aim Right. Missing all these wonderful people I have grown to love even through short conversations.

Prayer requests for team:

- we have always been more of a kidding around group. So, more realness and respect for one another.

- having almost one month left causes so many emotions. It leads to thinking about how sad saying goodbye to everyone will be, emotions about seeing the other teams, family, and other friends, and also leads to thinking about plans for the future.

- continually showing the Father's Love to everyone around us

-Kelly

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Mexico! (Part 2) - Briana's Team

Hello everybody, its Rey Rey!

So what did we do for spring break?? Well, what every teen loves to do – go to Mexico. But it wasn’t all beaches and vacation. We were able to help an organization build houses and were able to be a part of changing lives.

We left Thursday afternoon around lunch and picked up a girl who had wanted to come since her brother was already down there building houses. It was about a 4 hour trip down to Mexico and the time passed by fairly quickly, despite the fact that most everyone was quiet. We arrived there around 5 that night and got there just in time to see the group that had been at the center leave. Let me tell you, that group really scared me. The one kid I talked to the most of the night talked about how he’d only had maybe three showers the whole three days he had been there and how the tents they slept in had not been great. However our group got lucky and were named interns for ten days, so the guys and I got to sleep in the guys’ intern house and the girls got to sleep in the girls’ intern house.

On Friday we started our first house. The group that was supposed to help us had said they didn’t want to dig the hole for the septic or lay the concrete for the floor, so we got to do that ourselves. We spent that first day until around 2pm working on those tasks. The next day the group was supposed to be there around 1pm, so we just leveled the ground around the house and did some work on a bakery. Well, 1pm rolled around and the group didn’t show up, so we started cutting the boards for the frames; however, the place we were at didn’t have any power tools so we did everything by hand. After about two hours we had everything cut and ready to go, and right when we were about to leave, the other group showed up. The director let us go, though, and had the other group start putting the frames together. After we left the construction site, we went to the beach and chilled there for a while.

The next day was a big day; the other group was there and it was time to raise the walls. We got the walls raised, wood put on, and a bit of tar paper put up (if I remember right). The next day we put up the rest of the tar paper, then the chicken wire, and then started doing the stucco.

That night we had the fiesta night. Let me explain what fiesta night is. It’s the night that we get together with the family we’re building the house for and have a small party with a piñata, music, and dancing. All in all, it’s a blast.

The next morning was the dedication for the house. We sang songs and had communion in the house as its first meal – it was a great experience. After that we finished the house, then went back to base and slept. The next day was Wednesday, which is their Sabbath, so we went to church. After church we visited a dirt mall, which is a street lined with souvenir shops, and then we went to the beach and relaxed all day. On Thursday the next group arrived, which was actually a group from here in the valley. They didn’t do any work that day as it was just our group getting the site of the house prepped. We laid the floor and built the frames the first day, then the second day we put the walls up (for the most part the septic was in the back of the house and was too close so we had to wait for that task).

That night was the fiesta, which was again great. I love fiesta night.

Sunday was our last day there, so we helped out with the house once more. Then we packed up and went to the dedication of the house before saying our goodbyes to the interns that we had met down there. That was really hard because we had all became really good friends.

Getting back over the border went really well and we got back to Phoenix around 5:30pm. At 5:45, we had to say to good-bye to the girl we had picked up. She was a blast to get to know and we were all really happy she got to come with us. She should be reading this, so shout out to her! Also to the interns that we met down there, you’re awesome and we love you!

-Reylyn

Mexico! - Briana's Team

Hello everyone! Team Phoenix is in Mexico!!

Before we get too excited about Mexico, let’s go back to the beginning of the week in Phoenix. Sunday afternoon we were joined by a group from Texas. They were in charge of VBS for the week, and we were there to help if needed. VBS was Monday- Thursday in the afternoons; before VBS the group joined us in doing work projects. Most of our time in the mornings was spent repainting the majority of the main floor of the church, excluding the sanctuary. Right after painting we loaded up the bus and vans with kids and brought them back to the church for VBS.

Wednesday night, a couple hours after VBS, we had what was called a block party. All of our kids were invited to bring their families for a party! We had bounce houses, cotton candy, hot dogs and even a dance party. The night was a huge success!

Thursday, right before VBS, the team loaded all of our things into a fifteen passenger van and headed for MEXICO!! After a four hour drive and a slight mix up with the directions in Mexico, we arrived at our destination.

Friday we started off by laying a foundation and digging a septic hole for the house we will be helping to build this next week. After we were finished working at the building site (and got cleaned up of course), we headed to grab lunch (Mexican quesadillas are my new favorite thing) and then went to the beach. We stayed at the beach for hours and then explored a Mexican store. Needless to say our day was very nice.

We are all very excited to be in Mexico and can’t wait to see what stories we come back with. You’ll have to wait until next week to hear more about our adventures from Mexico.

For now I will say goodbye and until next time.

-Katie

Chilly Weather & Cotton Candy - Briana Byler

Dear Friends & Family,

This is Briana coming at you live and a bit chilly from the desert of Phoenix.

This past week the weather has been a bit chilly, we even had a day and night of rain which cooled the air considerably. But oh! The fresh air that rain always brings makes the grey overcast day so worth it. There is something so clean and refreshing when you can smell the grime and dust of a city being washed away. I guess that is kind of how it is in our lives.

How clean and refreshing it feels when we are washed clean by the sacrifice and grace given to us by our Savior. How much sweeter it makes each day when we remember that.

I have been reminded a lot lately about the importance of constantly turning my focus and attention back to our Father throughout the day. We start our days off with an hour of quiet time to be alone with our Father and to listen, read the Bible and talk to Him. But so often that is where I leave it, I forget to be in constant conversation with Him throughout our day.

But the difference it makes when I am in constant dialogue with our Father makes a difference to my attitude, my clarity of thinking, and my patience with others.

Anyways, so that is a little bit of what my Father has been teaching me.

This past week was an pretty average week schedule wise except for Wednesday night. On Wednesday we have Kingdom Kids, which is a Bible club for elementary age kids. Usually the night consists of singing songs as an entire group, having a few announcements and then splitting off into different age groups for classes. But instead of the normality of usualness, this week we had a Winter/Valentine’s Festival.

There was a bounce house, cotton candy (made ahead of time by me, I was very sticky by the end and it looked like I had white hair), hot dogs, chips, cookies, a cake walk, Bingo, music, crafts, pin the kiss on the frog, a maze and general frivolity. It was a lot of fun to mix up the normal routine and to be able to interact with the kids in a slightly more casual context.

I was in charge of Bingo, which surprisingly they were very excited about, it probably helped that the prize for winning was a sizable bag of candy. My throat was a little sore at the end of the night after having to speak above the sound of the music the entire time so that all of the kids could hear the numbers that I was calling out, but it was fun to see their excitement as their board was filling up and to have a good interaction with them.

We ended our week with a nice, relaxing weekend that was much needed. The past couple of weekends have been about as busy as the weeks and we were all feeling a little drained. We went to a place called Urban Cookies on Sunday after lunch and got ourselves some delicious cupcakes. No offense to my grandmas, aunts, mom, sister or great-aunts but I had the best chocolate cupcake of my life there.

As we are at the half way mark of our outreach we are trying to make the most of the time we have left, especially with the knowledge that March and April are going to be pretty busy months for us. In March we are heading to Mexico for around 10 days and right before that, several of our families are coming to visit us, and right after we get back from Mexico some other people’s families will be here. We then have vacation and a hiking trip to the Grand Canyon in April planned and soon after that we will be heading back to humid Ohio.

When I look at our upcoming schedule, it’s easy for me to be overwhelmed by the seemingly little amount of time left here, but I as well as the rest of my team are trying to keep our focus on the here and now and the students and opportunities that we have right now with each of them.

Thank you for your prayers over the months and for the support and love that you have sent our way.

-Briana

Prayer requests:

1) Fresh energy and focus

2) Joy and creativity as we tutor students at school

3) A fresh dose of love for the teens and kids we interact with

4) The ability to delve deeper into relationships with the teens

5) Continued camaraderie and love for each other

Reacquainted with Pheonix - Briana Byler

Hello Church Family!

I am in the sunny and warm(ish) city of Phoenix. The sun has been shining almost every day and although I need to wear a jacket outside it feels very nice.

I have felt many different emotions at being back in Phoenix. I feel excited, nervous, happy and a bit sad.

As we drove into the valley and I saw the first glints of the sun shining off of the buildings downtown it brought tears to my eyes as memories of when I was here before came back to me.

So far it feels very right being here and it feels like home.

I love the smell and feel of the city and the feel of sunshine on my face.

Our team is doing well and we are adjusting to our living quarters, different responsibilities and life here.

Aim Right Ministries is located in a church building and they have converted some of the classrooms upstairs into bedrooms for our team as well as their intern.

Since we are living at Aim Right we are nice and close to where things happen and we don't have to worry about traffic which is really nice as the traffic is pretty bad which makes getting places take longer than it should.

This first week the schedule has been different than it normally will be as we have been helping prep for the Christmas party for the neighborhood that Aim Right helps put on. But we have been able to start being in involved in City Night and Kingdom Kids which are some of the evening programs for kids and teens.

We also have the opportunity to help with homework at the elementary school that is located across the street. Aim Right has been doing a very good job at engaging with the teachers there as well as the kids and has become a large blessing to the school so I am looking forward to becoming more involved with that as well.

As a team we have been able to see the Annual Christmas Lights Parade in downtown as have enjoyed a cookout at our Outreach Coordinator's house and met most of the other volunteers there as well. That was really fun for me as I already knew a lot of the people, and was able to catch up with them.

So all in all we are enjoying settling in and becoming involved with everything and we are eager to see what God has for us here in the next 6 months.

Thank you for all of your support and prayers, I love you all. Until next time.

-Briana-

Some prayer requests for my team:

1. Health, we have developed some sniffles and coughs

2. Love, for the people here and each other

3. Energy, to learn new schedule, names, people and how things operate.

Update from Columbus - Briana Byler

Hey Everyone!

I am writing you all from Columbus, OH.  What am I doing here you might ask? Well I am currently going through the REACH program and I am co-leading the Phoenix team.

The first 3 months of this program in spent in OH at the training facility where we sit in on sessions every morning, volunteer at local ministries, have book studies, team debrief times, fun team times, intercession and many other things.

The next 6 months will be spent in AZ where we will be helping Aim Right Ministries with their different children's programs and various other things. I don't have exact details as of yet as to what we all we will be doing, but I will keep you updated.

I am on a team with 5 other people and there are 31 in the program this year.  My co-leader is Kelly Kauffman. Fun fact, she was on Trent's team when he led a team to Montana. And then we have Reylyn Yoder, Connor Oren, Karlee Lehman, and Katie Byler (no, we are not related). So in total our team is made up of 4 girls and 2 guys.

I arrived in OH 3 weeks ago now as Team Leaders arrive 2 weeks before the other participants.  We have had a little over 1 week now as a full team, and it has been going so great! I am enjoying getting to know each of my teammates and the fun times as well as the serious times we've had together have been really good.

I don't have any pictures to post yet, but we will be taking team pictures here shortly and then I can show off my team.

Blessings, Briana

 

Prayer Requests: 

1) That our team would continue to bond well and become really good friends and support for each other.

2) That I would have energy as I lead and plan and schedule different things.

3) That I as well as my team would be drawing closer to God and be listening to what He wants us to learn.

4) For excitement for our outreaches here in Columbus, and then in Phoenix as well.

Deepening Friendships and Football Games - Trent's Team

This past week has felt crazy for me with everything that's been happening since the prayer tour and getting back on schedule, and with things back home. We had sat in on lectures the first two weeks of Leadership Intern Training with the YWAM staff, but last week we did our own team stuff in the mornings and then joined them for the rest of the day in our normal activities. We have enjoyed the team here and are sad to see them leave in 3 weeks for their outreach. They will be traveling to Southeast Asia and Pacific regions doing shows and ministering there, sleeping under the mango trees, etc. They have really taught me a lot about faith and just believing our Father will show up. I've appreciated them so much and enjoyed serving with them. They have been a huge blessing in my life.

The mornings before lectures would start, our team plus the YWAM team would have a time of affirming each other and going through each person and encouraging them and praying for them. It was such a blessing for me, to receive that and to give that encouragement!

This week we were also doing some prep work. We have a busy week coming up as we are hosting a tribal council appreciation meal, a Seder meal, and fundraising.

Our team also got to go exploring one morning at Kerr Dam. That was fun to explore the trails and climb some rock faces, take pictures - oh, and try to scare one of our team members by running up to the edge or even just standing a few feet away from the edge. Ahem, Kelly. ;) Ahhh good times.

Another thing this week was the guys’ second football game in their semi pro league, so we showed up to watch and cheer them on! Go monsters! (I’m not sure who picked the name.) I guess we need to work on our cheering, as we lost, but it was still a great experience to watch them play and see their hard work in action. This is a part of the sports ministry we do, besides the time we spend at the gym.

So yeah, just be praying for us and thanks for reading!

-Amy

From Reservation to Reservation - Trent's Team

This week was Tribal Waves annual prayer trip to all 7 of the Reservations in Montana and we had the privilege of going with them this year. Let’s just say it was probably the highlight of my outreach so far. God showed himself in new ways to all of us and we saw him moving through us. We left on Monday, March 27, and headed to the Crow reservation and stayed the night there before going on to the N. Cheyenne reservation where we stayed another night. From there we went to the Fort Peck reservation, then to the Fort Belknap reservation, and then on to the Rocky Boy reservation. Our next stop was Chester, which is not a reservation, but we did a Tribal Waves and Team Extreme show and stayed the night there. On Saturday, April 1, we headed to our last reservation – the Blackfeet reservation. We spent our last night there and then headed back to the base on the Flathead reservation on April 2. Because this was a prayer trip, prayer was a priority at every stop; at every reservation we either stayed at a church and prayed and worshiped with the people, or we just spent time praying over different places and people. And the cool thing is that every reservation had something different for us, they weren’t all the same. God showed up every time – even if it felt like he wouldn’t, like there wasn’t hope, he still showed up.

So that’s just a brief overview of the trip and I would write all the highlights for each one but that might be a bit much so I’ll pick 1 or so. 🙂 The place where I saw God probably move the most was in N. Cheyenne in a really small town called Busby located in the middle of nowhere. When we first got there on Tuesday (3/28) in the afternoon, I got this feeling of depression and felt really down and out of it. It was because of the spiritual warfare there, and we found out a little later that there had been a lot of deaths recently in the community; this was common on the other reservations too. So after we had gotten settled in and talked with the pastor, we had a time of worship and prayer.

Before worship and prayer, though, we were able to connect with the people there in a new, fun way. One of the young girls had a birthday, so we sang and did a dance for her, and then we somehow got into rapping. One of the staff, named Sam, from another team we were with was doing some funny freestyle rapping and somehow we decided to let him do a freestyle rap at the church – it was hilarious! Singing happy birthday and rapping before we started worship really opened the door to the people’s hearts there. It broke the ice; we had such a good time laughing with one another and that’s what softened their hearts.

After we sang a few songs, we asked some of the youth (which were all girls) if they had any prayer requests for the area. At first they didn’t seem very open to it, but then one girl asked for prayer for her family because they just lost their grandpa. After asking her more about it, she broke down and started crying and we were able to pray for her and just be there for the family. I think when the other kids and even adults saw her vulnerability, it opened up their hearts. After she shared, people kept coming and asking for prayer one by one and by the end we had prayed for everyone but maybe 1 or 2 people in the church.

During this time a young girl rededicated her life to Christ and forgave her mother, and later we prayed for a man named Dave (age 51) who we had asked if he wanted prayer. He came up and started crying and said he missed his twin brother who died a while back and we talked with him for a while and at the end he came to Christ!!! He said it was the first time that he had felt the presence of God and that we were different from others. At the end of the night, there was so much peace and comfort there. I felt so much better than when I had arrived. And I think one thing that opened the door for all this was when we sang “Happy Birthday” and rapped. J We did what we thought God was wanting us to do. Because of the heaviness of everything going on at the reservation, a normal worship service may not have allowed us to connect with people as well and been as impactful. I learned to be more open and if God puts something on my heart or in my mind, even if it seems weird sometimes, you got to have faith and trust him.

-Christian

A Learning Week - Trent's Team

Hello everyone! Here is a glimpse into what our week was like last week. Sunday, I got my toes stepped on. Pastor Lynn talked about Soul Food and how our souls need rest. Two things that need to be practiced are solitude/silence and renewing our hope. I went to church thinking I was doing pretty well, but when Pastor Lynn started speaking, I'm pretty sure my soul gave me a nudge and a slap to the face. It was definitely a message I needed to hear. Dr. Pastor Lynn (what he called himself) gave the whole congregation a    prescription - to rest. He challenged us to be aware of ourselves, "How is it with your soul?"

This week the YWAM group started their LIT (leaders in training) class. Our team will be sitting in for 2 weeks to see what our fellow friends are learning and experience it for ourselves (pictured below). Georgia was one of the speakers this week. She and two other ladies have prayer walked throughout Montana. She reminded me that I need to put the armor of God on every day. This session came at a good time because we are preparing to travel to all 7 reservations in Montana for a week-long prayer tour. You can think of us as we prepare ourselves and ask for safe travels as we go from place to place.

Thanks for reading!

-Kelly