There’s not much to say, really. We got on the bus at about 7 o’clock, and arrived at Cedarcrest around 6. That’s about it. Our last program will be at Center on August 6th (Wednesday) at 7:45. Everyone is welcome!
Times in this log of our day are approximate and not intended to be strictly accurate.
7:48 Just in case you’ve taken this for granted, all the choir members did wake up, dress, and eat breakfast this morning. We don’t know how many of them took showers, but no one smelled too much like a dead skunk, so we all assumed the best.
9:46 Mennonite Evangelical Church. The aforementioned choir members arrived for warm-ups and prep time while the rest of the church had Sunday school. (Pastor John thought that they would see some new faces in Sunday school, if the church members had to bring their guests that early!) We had practiced the night before, so we didn’t have a lot to do.
10:17 During prep time, Kristen talked about the Old Testament story of God commanding that the singers go out before the Israelite army; God would fight for them, but they were called to be there and worship Him. He suggested that perhaps that is our calling as well. We spent some time praying then; there were a lot of people feeling sick-ish, and that put a bit of a damper on their anticipation of the program.
10:51 After their praise and worship team led a song, we took the stage they vacated. We felt pretty small in the immense sanctuary. (Side note: Several years ago, Daniel Peters designed the layout of the stage and sanctuary. Pretty cool!) There were some responsive faces – one lady was weeping during “Rest” – but the crowd was large, and it wasn’t easy to connect with them. It was also hard to hear each other because of the acoustics. Some people really enjoyed the morning, but most of us found it to be pretty hard work.
12:54 Some of us took the bus to the church’s school to eat lunch; others followed in various host to p vehicles. Before lunch, we undressed and re-dressed in more comfortable clothes – more appropriate for the volleyball that was to follow the meal. The meal, by the way, was a potluck, and we encountered some unfamiliar food. Some pots were luckier than others, that’s for sure. Those of us who got the verenika really felt blessed, while those who got a watery vegetable soup or some indefinable meat weren’t quite so thrilled.
2:48 The after-meal clean-up was leisurely, to say the least. Restless volleyball-hungry choir members kicked it off, but it took awhile to get the floor clear and the nets up. We played one round of volleyball, and then realized if we wanted to shower before an early supper, we had to get back to our hosts’ places.
5:04 “The timing of supper wasn’t the most optimal,” says Tony, “being only four hours after lunch, but the food was amazing.” The Somerfeld church provided barbecued ribs, mashed potatoes, salad, and fruit. It was above and beyond our needs, but nice anyway.
5:49 We eased into the sanctuary and onto the risers, and soon discovered that these folks knew how to build a church with great acoustics. The sound effortlessly rolled all the way to the back of the sanctuary. We were feeling pretty tired, though, and were struggling to focus. Coming off of our morning program, we were dealing with fatigue and health issues. It felt like it was the end of tour, and our nerves and our bodies were a bit frazzled.
6:42 We prayed and talked through the challenges ahead of us; our physical fatigue was tough, but we also felt like there was spiritual darkness we were confronting. Nelson shared some verses about coming to God and resting in Him. We were amazed at how God used that time to help us focus on Him and His power, and have confidence that He would again fight for us.
7:10 We started a bit late, because one of the church members had a lengthy spiel to kick off the service. We thoroughly enjoyed the program. From the first notes of “Hosanna”, we knew this was going to be a special program. The sound was terrific, but even more than that, we had an amazing freedom and joy as we sang and spoke. God blew our socks off. Even afterward, it was hard to contain our elation. We gathered in a circle and praised God for awhile! He clearly had received the glory that night!
8:45- midnight We split up to our various hosts’ places, and our activities varied according to our inclinations and fatigue level. Jewel testifies that her hosts’ nephew provided pizza and wings, and it was a good time.
We were really grateful for the gift of that last program; it felt that we ended the tour on a good note. God was strong in our weakness. He’s good all the time!
Jewel Yoder & Tony Shetler
After a good night of rest at El Paso, we met at the bus at 7:45. We were treated to donuts because we were on time (for once), and left around 8:00. We had about a two-hour drive to the Carlsbad Caverns. Just before stopping for a break at a rest area, two unfortunate people had to suffer the consequences of leaving items on the bus. Marvin and Cindy were each given a plate with two white chocolate frogs hidden in a pile of whipped topping, and were instructed to find and eat the frogs without using their hands. Luckily for Cindy, she had a place to wash her face following the experience. After we were on our way again, we received some tips on how to speed up roll call.
Eventually we arrived at the caverns and received orientation from one of the park rangers. We were informed that if we were caught chewing gum in the caverns, we would be fined $150. A nine-month term in prison and $4,000 fine could be incurred if we touched the sides of the caverns. After receiving orientation we walked approximately 1.2 miles to the bottom of the cavern. The largest room in the cavern, called the Big Room, was our destination. This spectacular room has an area of approximately 600,000 square feet, or the area of about fourteen football fields. We spent about two hours walking various trails in the cavern and admiring many formations. A sound made in a normal conversational voice carries ¼ mile, so we were instructed to whisper while in the caverns to keep the noise level down. We really wanted to sing while we were down there because the acoustics were incredible, but David was stopped by a park ranger when he was singing a solo. We decided to take the elevator back up and explored the gift shop, then we drove another two hours to a Russian Mennonite-owned restaurant called La Sierra Pizzeria in Seminole.
Following a delicious supper (paid for by Mennonite Evangelical Church), we sang “Happy Birthday” and “All Creatures of Our God and King” for Susie Peters’ dad. We then drove to the aforementioned church, where we would be giving a program in the morning. From that time until 9:00 we had rehearsal time, then our hosts picked us up.
Heidi King & Kristen Miller
Call time was 9:00 at Ebenfeld Church in the morning. Since most of us hadn’t really done a whole lot of shopping, we than went to a local shopping/grocery store around 9:30 to use some mexican money up. :) after a half hour shopping, we headed to the border. This travel took around three hours, so we tried to use our time wisely. Lots of people of took the opportunity to use up hash time on the bus and Isaac had devotions and shared some of his lifestory once again. Since the drive was 3 hours we stopped for lunch where there were quesadilla and burrito venders on the side of the road. There were also some authenic indian shops close by so we browsed after we ate delicious food. We had to be back on the bus by 1:45 so we could head to the border.
We traveled for another hour an a half or more to the border. On the way military checkpoint stopped us and one soldier walked through the bus. At the point it seemed a little freaky but our bus driver was calm and was used to this happen so it was nothing to worry about. Our bus driver gave them plenty of water to drink. We moved on, and stopped at a check out point to turn in our touristas and get our passports stamped. It was a false alarm because they were out of electricity. So we had to go on the border which was about another half hour or less, to turn in our touristas and get stamped. Some of the people got lost so we were looking around for them. Thankfully our mexican tour guide came up to the bus and realized we didn’t have all our people. So he went running and looking for them. From the bus we saw him holding part of a fence back for the people to squeeze through. John got a cut on his forehead from escaping through the fence. :) It was good to see them and hysterical to watch them crawl through. The place was absolutely packed and it took an hour and a half to cross the border. We had take out all our belongings off the bus and go through security.
After all that, we headed to a motel in the city of El Paso, Texas. El Paso is right against the border of Texas. After settling in and saying our goodbyes to our bus driver Tom, most of the people head for a place to eat food. Some people enjoyed McDonalds. Others enjoyed Texas Roadhouse and Applebees. 6 girls took the privilege of going to Walmart next door for food, and enjoying a picnic at the top of a wall. Which was really cool because you could see view of the city. After food there was a various amount of shopping and chilling outside of the motel. It was good day for all :) And we are happy to be back in the states even though we miss Mexico. We also met our new bus driver, John, who will be driving for the next three days.
Stanley Nisly and Carolyn Miller
We met at Gnadenthal Church in Chautemoc, Mexico around 9:30 in the morning and drove about two hours to Springfeld Church in Los Jagueyues. We spent most of the ride hashing various happenings of the night before and arrived at the church around 11:40. There we met some of the local church people and boarded trucks which took us to a picnicing spot close to the bottom of a tall mountain. Before we ate they sang some German and Spanish songs for us and we sang one for them in English and Zulu. We also sang some English songs together. For lunch they introduced us to disco (not a dance!) basically a massive stirfy fried up in a massive disk grill, kind of like a large wok. We also had tons of other amazing food. We required a lot of food to fortify us for the hike up the mountain that was planned for after lunch!
After the meal we grabbed lots of bottled water and reboarded the trucks to travel further in to the base of the mountain where we would begin our grueling hike. From the bottom to the top of the mountain the elevation rises about 1 1/3 miles. About half the group elected to stop before the steepest part and detour through the valley. The rest of us thought we were going to die as we struggled up the steep rocky slope in the intense Mexican heat. But we survived and were glad for the view it gave us.
Some of the girls, who weren’t in the mood for hiking, went fabric shopping instead. They had a good time as well!
After the hike we headed back to the church where we met our hosts and headed home to clean up for the program. We enjoyed a sumptuous supper in a park across from Ebenfeld Church, a sister church to Springfeld. As we gave our program at Ebenfeld we felt the Spirit at work. This church has experienced numerous tragic deaths recently, so some of the choir members were able to connect with individuals because of our shared experiences. This is a community that has been close to the Peters family in the past several years, so it was a treat for them to reconnect with old friends. Some of our members also enjoyed connecting with friends from Shenandoah Music Camp and SMBI.
Written by David Shenk and Kendra Shetler
On Wednesday morning we woke up in Oasis colony to a beautiful morning. We met at church, packed, and said our goodbyes. The people were very friendly and we really enjoyed our time there. Like most Mennonite colonies,the economy is primarily based on agriculture. In this area, they raise cotton, corn, watermelons, apples, and a few other crops. We drove for several hours through rolling mountains and several towns. Finally, we arrived in Cuahtemoc. We split up in random groups for authentic Mexican dining experience. Most people reported that the food was excellent except for one poor fellow who ordered a burrito loaded up with pig fat. After lunch we browsed through various shops and spent some time in the central park.
In the early afternoon we headed out for the Manitoba colony and did some fabric shopping in the Mennonite stores. The boys had little choice in the matter and expressed varying levels of interest in fabrics. We were surprised at the number of businesses and equipment dealerships in this area. This is a huge Mennonite colony and many of them are very wealthy. Finally we arrived at Gnadenthal church and unloaded in the gym. We played volleyball, got cleaned up, and ate pizza with the local youth. Since Arlyn had spent time there last summer, he enjoyed catching up with his former students and friends.
We paused for a quick group picture in front of their beautiful church house. The program went well and the people seemed to really enjoy it. During the kids skit, one little boy just couldn’t stop laughing and had most of the church laughing at him. The youth girls really enjoyed it and wanted to start something like that in their community. After church we split up to our hosts houses and were treated like royalty. One group of boys had a hoot camping with some of the Mennonite boys.
-Arlyn Miller and Crystal Headings