Monday, August 10, 2015

The Arizona Experience {2015}

Thanks to everyone who prayed for us while were in Arizona this summer.  It was an amazing trip for our group and for the Navajos we visited.  Below is what our family shared with our church about our time there.  You can listen to the entire Arizona Experience here {07/12/15}:
Bill - 00:00, 08:47, 21:14, 47:43, 1:01:52
Espy - 08:02
Gianna - 20:14
Grace - 52:17
Otis - 58:32

Good morning.
My name is Espy Manning, and I’m 11 years old. 
I have been on this trip for 3 years. 
I first would like to thank you for your love and support. 
My favorite part of Arizona had to be the VBS.
Even when I had to switch to K5-1st, it was still amazing.
Now I think that if I didn’t switch, I wouldn’t have met those wonderful kids in that class.
What I did not like was when I saw the kids being rude, and that brings me to what I learned.
I learned a lot about patience. 
I had to be patient with my sister.
I had to be patient with the kids.
But more importantly, I had to patient with God.
Now that I’m home, I think God wants me to do exactly what I did there:
Love Everyone.

My name is Gianna Manning, and I’m 9 years old.
This is my first year going to Arizona. 
I learned that Navajo kids and adults don’t have everyting that we have
so it’s nice to treat them with respect and kindness.
My favorite part of the trip was VBS and playing with the kids.
Thank you for all your help and prayers.

Good morning, church - my name is Grace, but I'm actually going to be sharing some thoughts from Regan Mosely.  We're so thankful that she was able to go on this trip with us even after her recent move to Louisiana.  So, from Regan:

"I've been going on this trip since I was 12 years old, and this was by far the hardest year. I had no idea what I was expecting to learn this time. I feel like God really showed me how selfish I am, and how amazing he can be. Dropping kids off at a different house every night bc they couldn't go home to their parents was heartbreaking and eye opening. I have been so focused on myself lately, and feeling like my world has fallen apart when really I have it so good. I think I have such a hard life, and then I see children going through things so much worse. I have an amazing family and wonderful friends, and I have a God who is always there for me. I want the Navajos to know this God too, and every year that I go I feel like they are a little more open. Thank you so much for your prayers & support. I could not have gone on this trip without your help."

Good morning, church.  My name is Grace Manning, and this is my 4th year going to Arizona.  I was fortunate enough to go on the short Christmas trip this past December, and the last summer trip I was a part of was in 2004.  I firmly believe that God wanted me to go on this trip.  He answered lots of prayers.  The finances were generously given for the four of us to go.  Someone graciously assumed my work responsibilities.  Loving friends & family took care of our Isabella & Evangeline while we were away.  He provided a way for me to attend my cousin Joel’s memorial service in Atlanta & Otis’s sister Belinda kindly picked me up in Phoenix late Friday night and drove me three hours to the Reservation that same evening.  He also gave me the physical & emotional stamina to be “almost normal” for the duration of the trip.  He is good.

Currently, we are going through a rough patch in life.  Our close friends have had to deal with some major life changes, broken relationships, and unexpected loss.  Our family has been processing the deaths of two special people whom we love very much.  Bill has shared with you how he has been dealing with depression.  In light of these things, my heart has been broken and my faith has been worn.

However, being on the Reservation reminded me of the Truths that I have known in my mind but have had a hard time believing fully with my heart…
*God made us.  God knows us.  God loves us.  God forgives us, and God is with us. 
*He made each one of us here.  He made each one of our Navajo friends.  He made us exactly how he wanted us to be: no mistakes, no accidents.
*God knows everything about us: the good, the bad, and the ugly…
*and, He loves us.  He loves me.  He loves Bill.  He loves our girls.  He loves our family & our friends.  He loves the beautiful Navajos that we love so very much.  He loves them much more than we ever could.  He’s loved us all from before the beginning & His love is indestructible.
*God forgives us over and over and over again.
*And, He is always with us.  When life is good, He is with us.  Where there is loss - where there is darkness - where there is heartache, He is with us.  On the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, He is with us all. 

So despite my selfishness & self-focus, He is still God.  Still true.  Still my rock & the only thing I can count on.

Now I ask all of you to continue to pray for our Navajo friends: that they would know God & know these truths, that relationships would continue to deepen & that friendships would continue to grow.  Please pray for our group – that we would remember what it’s like to love fully & freely, to not be selfish & distracted, to continue despite our mistakes & our failures, to keep God’s love & purpose as our focus.

Thanks again to God & to you, church, for allowing me to be a part of this experience.  Your children are amazing.  They are capable young people who stepped up when necessary and were willing to help out whenever we asked (or asked again).  They are hilarious & ridiculously fun to be around.  I’m thankful for the example your children are for me & the example they set for mine.  We’ve known some of them for many, many years, and it’s really been a privilege to watch them grow.  They truly personified Jesus’s love during this trip: through piggyback rides, Gatorade sips, shared meals, water balloon fights, endless hugs, and on & on.
I’m proud to call this group our family.
Thanks again for your love & support - we certainly could not have done it without your encouragement & your prayers.

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