snapshots

The Table

Article by Christa Baca

I love traditions.

I am constantly dreaming up new ways to celebrate and give homage to the dates and special moments of life.  In a world where it’s so easy to drift away from what really matters;  I feel like traditions tether us to what is important.  They keep us anchored.  Tradition creates history and allows us to join in and be part of continuing that history as it unfolds. It helps us through the sometimes mundane everyday moments that fly by as we live out our life.

We’ve started a new tradition at Go.  We call it “The Table.” On the last Friday of the month, our team gathers together and cooks a meal.  Music and laughter enshrouds the base as we crowd into our tiny kitchen and share cutting boards and swap recipes and stories.  We light candles and arrange flowers and eat chips and dip. (Because it’s not a party if there’s not chips and dip.) Then, we squeeze around our table with the lights dimmed low and share stories; stories about the past month, people we’ve met and things we won’t forget. Some of us share entries from our journals, others who are artistically inclined show art they made or photos they've taken.  We set this time aside to remember; and in doing so, we join together and celebrate Christ.  It’s a simple meal that we create together; and yet in that simple meal we feel God there in the midst of us. Somehow on that night the hardships of living in another country slowly melt away, the homesickness we sometimes feel dwindles and we become centered on why we are here.

It’s important in our fast paced world to stop and remember.  Our lives can become so future oriented that we never take time to look back. Usually parties and celebrations center around moving forward: a birthday, the new year, a wedding. Seldom do we pause from the momentum of "forward" to give homage to where we have been. When we look back we see life's victories. We see where God has taken us, many times through places and moments we didn't know if we had the courage to move past. We find strength to go forward as we savor the sweetness of these victories.

We find God here in the remembering.

The 8 Crayon Life

It was about two years ago that we felt this sudden nudging to stop everything we were doing.

Nine years of work.

Done.

It was with heavy hearts that we told our staff and interns that we knew this season was over and that God had something different for us.

What was it?

We weren't fully sure. It seemed illogical to stop, but transition is always served best with a side order of crazy. Despite our doubts, we knew this is what we needed to do. It was with trembling hands that we sold nearly everything we owned in a few garage sales. It was with curiosity and amazement that we decided to follow the leading in our hearts and move to Ecuador.

We sold, packed, donated, and purged life down to what would fit into two 50LB suitcases each. I wish I could say that I felt light and untethered, but let's be real: I missed all my stuff. I would get these little pings of "stuff sickness" in my heart when I would think of my craft closet that didn't exist anymore or my white dishes and vintage chalkboard frames that I gave away and now graced the walls of my dear friends homes instead of mine.

I know they say that "less is more" but "less" honestly felt a lot like...less. I wish I could say that I barreled through these moments of change with grace and ease but there were plenty of moments I spent riddled with doubt and often wondered,"Am I crazy?"

The answer I quickly discovered was, yes. Yes, I was crazy.

Packing up life is one thing, but missing stuff is so minuscule compared to missing people. When you are blessed with so many amazing people in your life there are a TON of big things you miss in a year: The birth of my brother's twin girls, the adoption of my new niece, seeing first hand the sparkle of my sisters engagement ring, late night talks with my mom and dad on their bed, and domino games with my mother and father in law where I would laugh so hard tears would stream down my face. All those amazing, everyday moments that spread out into "life" now become extracted and condensed into a handful of visits for a few days out of the year.

In our "Eco friendly" world it sounds so hipster to sell everything and par life down to move overseas. But I know first hand that there are so many things you don't realize that you will have to give up until you arrive.

Like your language.

Today, one of our Go translators asked me what is the most different thing about Ecuador from the states. Without even thinking I answered,"Spanish."

Ah, Spanish.

No, I'm not fluent.

Yet.

I've come a long way since we stepped off the plane. The first time I attempted to order a simple cheese burger on my own I wound up somehow with two massive double cheese burgers. Nine dollars and three tissues later, I sat looking at my husband, two giant all-beef-patties between us, as tears flowed down my cheeks and I asked him,"What am I doing here?" For someone who prides herself on having an extensive vocabulary, it was this pairing down that was the most frustrating for me. I felt like I was a three month old all over again.  I couldn't communicate anything I wanted to say, and like a baby all I could do was cry about it.

Then, (thankfully) I got over myself and started really trying to learn. After a while you get used to listening very hard and memorization and practicing words over and over.  Someday soon I'll be fluent and I will be so thankful for the days I spent struggling through this language. At least now I've learned to have a sense of humor about it all and I can laugh with others about my Spanish as I learn more and more everyday.

I told someone this the other day, "moving overseas is like pairing down from a 64 color crayon box to an 8 color box."

It's simpler.

In my old life, I used to be able to use any color I wanted; now I find myself having to be more creative. If I'm honest about my old 64 color crayon box life; there's a lot of colors I never used. They just sat there cluttered, wasted, and untouched. The great thing about life with only eight colors is that it causes you to really see and experience every color. Each crayon becomes a necessity and is celebrated and used frequently every day.

In this new season of life I've found that a lot of what I thought I needed, I didn't really need. Somehow, that stripping away has done something beautiful to my soul. Life is indeed richer. Not in a monetary sense but in a wholistic living sense. Thankfully, I can honestly say that less has become more.

Everyday I am surrounded with reminders of how thankful I am for my eight crayon life. I see toddlers who learn to take their first steps in the median of the busy city streets while their moms sell fruit to the cars stopped at traffic lights. I know of children who are forced to work rather than go to school. I've seen the desperation in peoples eyes as they beg for food. My life may be simpler than it used to be, yet compared to so many it's very extravagant. I have learned to be thankful for what I have been given.

This eight crayon life has taught me the necessity of true friendship and community.  I've come to know that strong bonds can form despite language barriers and cultural differences.  I've also learned that the people who really love you will never allow distance to keep a friendship from growing. Text messages and skype sessions, although not always as warm as a hug from the one you love don't just tide you over until your next visit... They leave you smiling all day long.

I've watched young souls give up country and family to serve humanity here in Ecuador. Their boundless courage and unrelenting passion gives me hope for this next generation. They too have found the joy of living this eight crayon life.

I've learned that being where you are is powerful. Not wishing you were somewhere else is life transforming. Slowing down to experience life tethers you to this moment and there is something sacred about living in the moment.  I can tell you from my own experience that embracing the wind of change, no matter how strong it's gusts may blow, is something you won't regret.

So, I invite you to par down and to find the "more" that comes from having "less".  Life lived simple is beautiful. You don't have to sell everything and more overseas to participate in this eight crayon life.  You can experience it by simply celebrating all that you do have and perhaps even looking at some things that you could do without. You find this life when you surrender your plans for His. It's a radical life that Jesus extends to us when he says, "Come. Follow me."  I know all to well how scary it is to drop what you are doing to follow Him.  All I know is that He has made some beautiful things out of my life when I finally handed the crayons to Him.

Am I Crazy?

Photo caption: Greg sharing in "Equip" class to our current Submerge team

They say the place where your talents and passion collide is your destiny.   The past few weeks have confirmed that what we are doing here in Ecuador is our destiny.  From tremendous open doors with the city and the Department of Education, to the amazing time we are having pouring into the lives of our Submerge team, each day is filled with excitement and new opportunities.  It seems that everything we have done in life up until now has prepared us for this moment… and we are loving it.

There is a fantastic quote by Howard Thurmand which reads, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Each of us has that “sweet spot” in life.  Think for a moment about what excites you.  What is that thing that makes you really feel alive?  For us it took a lot of courage to change everything and move overseas.  Saying good-bye to friends and family that we loved and saying farewell to all of our “stuff” was one of the hardest challenges we have faced. There were so many times we would look at each other and ask, “Are we crazy?” We decided that indeed we are crazy. Now, close to a year and a half later we are so grateful that we made the move.

When we choose to follow our dreams it’s like a seed that is planted in the ground.  It takes time to see that seed come alive and begin to grow.  Unfortunately we can get discouraged in the time it takes for the seed to begin to grow.  During those times of waiting don’t give up.  The Bible puts it like this in Galatians 6:9 “Do not grow weary in well doing for in due time and the appointed season you shall reap a harvest if you faint not.”

It’s time to do some things that make you ask yourself, “Am I crazy?”

Journeying Together,

The Bacas

Go Snapshot: Go Weekend

The Submerge program is in full swing.  In typical Go International fashion we kicked off the program with our “Go Weekend”.  Some of you may recall our Go Weekend from our days of running the Go Internship. The weekend unfolds into a two-day experience where the team is led by a series of clues and challenges that represent the core values of Go International. Throughout the weekend the team learns more about the culture of Ecuador as well.  

 

We do these weekends because we believe that the team can absorb more about the culture of Go experientially than in a classroom setting.  Take for example one of our students Jordan Elmore who wrote about one of his experiences from the weekend in his blog:   

 

“ So the blindfold has been removed from my eyes, from my life. That night will forever stay embedded in my mind, and in my heart, of a push to be more, to do more to be a part of my own story, to not let my fears take the pen instead. The blindfold is gone. I can now see. And what I see is bright skies to come, with God giving me a new pen each day, saying “what will you write today that you will remember tomorrow, and ages to come?” That is what He says, and that is how I will live.”

 

 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so we invite you to Check out the gallery below to see some photo’s of the weekend.

Thank you for your continued love and support.

It is making a difference.

Journeying together,

Greg and Christa Baca 

GO Snapshot August 23

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Friends,

I hope you are doing great!  Things here in Ecuador are continuing to go well.  Last week we met with the municipality of Quito at their request, and we emerged from the meeting with a plan to work on several fronts together:

1)  In the coming weeks we will hold a conference on Creative Thinking with all of the municipal staff and police from one of the largest districts in Quito.  

2)  They want us to begin working in their schools with a focus on sharing the inherent value that each student possesses and encouraging them to dream.

3)  They’ve asked that we begin to hold teachers conferences to teach them how to train their students to be creative thinkers, innovators, and problem solvers,

4)   They would like to start working with us on a weekly basis in the party district of Quito.  There are many bars and clubs in this district and this is where prostitution seems to be most rampant.  When you go to this area you will find kids as young as 5 years old often unaccompanied by any adult.  Some of these kids have parents who work late nights as street vendors or prostitutes, and others children are rented for the weekend by the mafia from families in rural villages.  These children are then expected to peddle drugs and meet theft quotas.  The city would like to begin reaching out to these kids but they don’t know how to do it.  They’ve offered to shut down an entire street and provide security if our teams will come once a week to offer a childrens presentation with games and a “positive message”.  The hope is that as we build trust with these kids we could find out more about their story’s and provide them with resources such as safe homes at night as an alternative to sleeping in the streets.

We welcome the invitation to work with local government because we believe there needs to be Godly voices and influence in this area.  

Thank you for your continued prayers and support as we step through these new doors.

Journeying Together,

Greg

 

Go International Documentary

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On Sunday a film crew from Gray Media Productions will arrive here in Quito to begin shooting a documentary with us.  The crew will follow our team as we do a variety of ministry with the main goal of documenting the Dream Campaign.  The concept of the film is to capture how regardless of culture or economic class you still find people who dream.  This film is not necessarily a “Christian Film”, but rather a story told from a Christian perspective.  We pray that doors of distribution will open not only in Christian circles but also in secular avenues where we can share a message of hope with a broad audience.  I’ll keep you posted on how the shoot goes and any development that occur in the coming months!

The past few weeks have been busy as we have been training our newest Submerge team and sending them out for their first outreaches.  In just a few short weeks they’ve ministered in prisons, after school programs, parks, and plazas.  In addition they have held a Dream Campaign, a Vision Challenge, and created a brand new outreach we will be doing tonight called the Believe Campaign.  It is great building relationships with a new group of people and helping them get to know this incredible country.

In the last edition of this newsletter, I shared how a local magazine has decided to feature Go International in each edition that they publish.  Since that time I spoke to the publisher and pitched a new idea.  I asked if he would be willing to dedicate some space in his magazine to the boys in the juvenile prison that we minister in each week; he said yes.  The goal is to give these boys, whom society has pushed to the side, a voice in their city.  We want to tell their stories to the city and let them share how their lives have been changing.  We spoke to the directors of the prison about the concept, they were excited and thought it would be a great encouragement for these young men to see their words published.

We have now been ministering twice a week in the prison for about four months.  We have grown close to these young men and have spent much time talking about choices, identity, redemption, and God’s plan for their lives.  They are truly starting to “get it”.  The directors of the prison tell us often what a difference it is making in the boys lives, and they continue to give us favor.  I’m a firm believer that while God has good plans for us, we must develop ourselves to receive all that He has.  For this reason I feel that it is important to build upon what we’ve been sharing with these young men and begin to give them practical tools that will help them succeed when they get out of prison.  Beginning next week we will be adding two classes to our curriculum; English and Introductory Business.  We gave the boys the choice of which class they could sign up for, and they were excited about having the opportunity to learn one of these topics.  

Thank you for your continued prayers as we continue to plow ground here and seek to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth!

Journeying Together,

The Bacas