Happy Valentine's Day from Thailand! With all of this love in the air, I thought I would share some of ours.
To say friendship came easily tfor our team would be an understatement. Comfort and closeness were immediate after meeting each other on the first day of training camp (nearly four weeks ago)! We enjoy getting to know each other more each day and I hope as you learn more about us you will grow to love our team as much as I do! God has blessed each of us with eight new friendships and I look forward to serving next to these women for the next few months and continuing our friendships after we return home in April.
Meet 21 year old Alliona Kiriyak. This Russian beauty is from Rochester, New York and she decided to take a semester off of school to fall more in love with Jesus and learn His plan for her. Alliona enjoys taking photos of nature and playing sports. Her biggest culture shock was that we (sometimes) have to pay to use a public restroom! (this was a huge surprise to all of us) Please pray that God continues to give Alliona wisdom, leads her and that she learns to trust Him more.
This blonde cutie is Texas raised Hannah Wesson. She is 18 years old and graduated high school in December in New Braunfels, TX. She wanted to do something more with her time than work or start college courses and she felt the Lord was calling her to use her time for missions. Hannah has a severe phobia of feet (trust me, it's real). The biggest culture shock that she experienced was how friendly the Thai people are. Rather than ignoring us “farangs,” or foreigners, they are very smiley and always willing to help out and give instructions or directions. Please pray that Hannah becomes fully reliant on the Lord in everything she does.
Elizabeth (Eli) Hartwig is a spunky 20 year old (21 on Feb. 22nd) that can put a smile on anyone's face. She is a missionary kid from Ecuador but has lived in Arizona for the last three years for school. In Eli's words, “We serve an amazing God. The fact that He has called each one of us here to be His hands and feet to the Thai people blows me away.” Eli is here to fully serve those trapped in slavery and bondage. She has felt called to Southeast Asia and the door finally opened this summer. Eli has many weird talents, including, but not limited to: sounding like a sheep (it's a weirdly perfect impersonation), being able to lick her elbow and being able to scratch her head with her foot. Despite the cross walks and red lights, Eli's biggest culture shock is that as a pedestrian, you take the traffic head on, with or without oncoming vehicles (sometimes we run quicker than others). Please pray that God would continue to transform Eli's heart, that He softens it and consumes her and that through all of this, He will be glorified. Pray that His love will fill our hearts as we reach out to the broken people of Thailand and to our own team.
Meet Annie Rea, who will become be Mrs. Annie Letters shortly after we return (June 28th to be exact)! Annie is from Battle Creek, Michigan and felt called to act on her beliefs and become Jesus' hands and feet; she came to Thailand to learn to love radically. Memorizing obscure facts about Disney World is one of Annie's many talents, as it is her “second home” (seriously, she's been there 10 times). Annie's biggest culture shock is that we have to pay to use public bathrooms (we all miss American bathrooms). Please pray for continued strength and boldness to step out in the Lord's promises and that Annie will have Jesus' eyes for the people of Thailand.
Kara McDonnell is our sweet, Canadian redhead. She is 20 years old and from Edmonton, Alberta. Kara felt God calling her to come on this trip before going back to college; she wanted to deepen her faith in the Lord on this journey. Kara loves old people and cats with her whole heart (those are her words, and she means it 🙂 ). She had expected a language barrier, but Kara's biggest culture shock was when she wasn't able to talk at all with the kids she met in the slums. Please pray that God gives her the ability to build strong, positive relationships with the people in Thailand and that her faith continues to grow more than she can imagine!
Ms. Kellie McGann (Lil' Kel) is our sassy girl from the East. She is a 20 year old (21 on Feb. 26th) from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Kellie is here out of her desire to grow spiritually and to know God more and she wants to make an impact on the world as she does these things. This girl can do the wave with her tongue (I'm told she can also do the worm). Kellie's biggest culture shock was a shock to all of us when she seriously offended a man on a bus for pointing her feet near his briefcase. (In Thai culture, the foot is considered the dirtiest part of the body, so showing someone or touching someone with the bottom of your foot is very offensive and rude). Please pray that Kellie would live in the boldness and strength of God everyday.
Meet our jokester: Hannah Ruth Diane Buller….the 4th. She is a descendant of the Great Prince of Whales, heir to the throne of England and princess of the entire continent of Europe. Most people call her “J” (so does her Thai team). She is as old as her tongue and a little older than her teeth. J really doesn't have an origin, but her story begins with her suddenly appearing on a farm in Minnesota (and you better believe she says Minne-sOta, like a true Minnesotan). However, due to her extensive knowledge and smashing good looks, she believes she may have fallen from the heavenlies. When asked why she is here, J thoughtfully replied that that is the question all people have been asking since the dawn of philosophy. “When people actually begin to ponder the meaning of life, it is everyone's duty to find out for themselves why they are here. I am here….because the world needs me.” J has no weird talents, they are all totally normal and acceptable. Her biggest culture shock was within the team. “The fact that some people take the “no flushing the toilet paper” rule to the extreme and refuse to leave it at that. They take it to a whole new level, they just don't flush…and that practice is gross and unacceptable.” Prayer request: “I'm living in the same room with 8 other girls. Enough said.”
Kelli Verhoeven (BK or Big Kelli) is our beautiful, and very experienced, team leader. She is 23 and from Wisconsin. Kelli is here because God asked her to continue learning and growing by leading our team and sharing the lessons she has learned over the past year on The World Race (that is 11 countries in 11 months). Her biggest culture shock was the first time she had to use a “squatty potty” in Africa (that, dear friends and supporters, is an experience everyone should have to go through. It's crazy). Please pray that Kelli grows closer to God and that He helps her lead people to a deeper intimacy with Christ.
My turn! I'm Corianne McKearney, a 19 year old from Wyoming who wasn't ready to go to college last fall. I'm here to fall in love with Jesus (and maybe get a glimpse of the plan He has for me), build Christ-centered, lasting friendships and to serve God in whatever way He chooses. As far as weird talents go…I am a professional at making funny faces (ask anyone on the team)! My biggest culture shock is that the college students are allowed to use their iPhones to help them with their English homework….what!? Please pray that I am consumed by truth and that I find complete satisfaction and wholeness in Jesus.