Tuesday, January 12, 2016

a walk down memory lane

I saw a picture on Facebook last night that was of our mission trip to Iceland that Todd and I went on almost six years ago, and it got me reminiscing about the people we went with and what all took place.  I thought I would share a little of that trip with y'all, since I don't think I ever did that.

This is the only mission trip that Todd and I have ever been on, and I remember him texting me in church one Sunday to tell me that he would really like for us to go on this trip, and to pray about it.  Then just a couple weeks later, he got a text from his friend saying that someone anonymous had given us each three hundred dollars in the church office, to apply towards our trip.

It seemed like that was the open door that God provided for us, and we began to prepare to raise funds for the rest of the amount.

We went with a handful of other people, but the leader of the trip was from the church staff and a good friend of Todd's.  Eddie had meetings with us and prepared us for what would or could possibly take place while we were gone, and from that first meeting and for all of the rest, it was planned out and organized and he was challenging us to prepare our hearts for what might lie ahead.  (As far as the planning, it was about as planned as you could get with a mission trip.  He did say that lots of unexpected things usually ended up happening.)

A few weeks before we left, however, a volcano started erupting over there.  You might remember it?  The name is so long and so hard to pronounce, that newscasters referred to the volcano as E15.  It started erupting and pretty much didn't stop.  It was still erupting a bit when we left to go over to Iceland, and because of that, the course of our trip changed.  Originally we were going to be in or new Reykjavik (pronounced Ray-ka-vick), working on a camp ground that is used for conventions, scouts and such.  When the volcano started erupting, our plan was foiled and a new one had to be made.  We didn't really know what that was until just a few days before we left, and that was that when we got there, we would spend one night in Reykjavik and the next day we would take a (FOUR HOUR) ferry ride over to Vestmannaeyjaer (pronounced Vest-man-ay-a), or more commonly known as the Westman Islands.  (You should Google that at this point, it was absolutely gorgeous.)

We flew from Memphis to Boston, then from Boston into Keflavik.  We met our missionaries that were going to be with us the entire trip, Mike and Sheila Fitzgerald, and immediately, our hearts were threaded together with these amazing people.  I love how that happens with some of God's people...have you ever had that instant connection with a like-minded believer?

Mike drove us around to show off his beautiful city a bit, then we settled into a bed and breakfast type hotel to stay the night.  Our first dinner was....I can't remember, but I'm pretty sure lamb was in it.  We ate a lot of lamb.  It might have been Chinese food, actually.  I learned to love an orange flavored drink that was like their Coke, called Applesin.  (Diet Coke is not an Icelandic thing...or, if you see it, know that it is NOT the same at all.)  And I learned to just eat what was given me.  There is no complaining on mission trips!

We ferried over to Vestmannaeyjar, and I was so sick...the North Atlantic Ocean was so rough that day, and most of us were terribly sick.  I had to lay down in a bunk bed the entire time, and this amazing lady (Mrs. Carolyn, Eddie's mom) took care of those of us who couldn't move from our beds, including Sheila, the missionary's wife.  I am telling you, they said the ocean was worse than it had ever been...I was sick before we even left the rock-lined inlet where the ferry was docked.

We finally arrived on the island (which was home to the whale Keiko from the movie, Free Willy) and met a pastor and his family of a small church on the island.  The island population is very small, but absolutely breathtaking, and we immediately felt that heart connection with Gudni and his wife, Gudbjorg.

Left to right are Gudbjorg, Karl (their son), Gudni, Toddley and me.

When we got there, they were about to have a church service, so we joined them for that, then because the sun never really sets in the summer months, we took a walk around town at midnight.  Here's a picture of the island from when we first arrived, and below that is a picture of where we took our midnight stroll.

Everything was so beautiful, it almost looked like something out of a Disney movie.  We stayed at the church we attended that first night for the whole time we were there, and we met the most amazing people.  Our job, once we got there, was to hand out these videos that were about Jesus, in their own language, and to just encourage the people of that village.  The mindsets of the people were downcast, and very few of them actually have a relationship with God.  We prayed with several people, and lots of cool things happened while we were there that only God could have done.

One neat thing that happened to me was that I was asked to sing in one of the church services, but what in the world does one sing, while in Iceland and not prepared?  (I need to stop here and say that our leader, Eddie, had told us to live with no regrets while we were there, and to try not to say the word no, when presented with an opportunity.  Though I am not one who normally sings alone in church, because of what Eddie challenged us with, I said yes to singing.  Even though that is WAY out of my comfort zone, because I feel I'm best in a group.)  So, in talking with the band that morning before church, they told me they knew and loved the song Amazing Grace.  I gave a brief testimony (with an interpreter) before I sang, then I sang the song.  I tried to not look at anyone while I sang, but I kept noticing one lady in the back who was sobbing the entire time the song was playing.  I later found out that her husband had recently died and that was his very favorite song, and she said she felt the Lord's presence with her comforting her in her grief the entire time I sang.

Wow.  Talk about humbling.  What if I'd said no to singing?

Here are a few more pictures from our time on Vestmannaeyjar.

This mountain side pictured above is where their native birds, the puffin, burrow.

In this picture above, that little puff of white toward the top right of this picture (looks like a cloud) is smoke from where that volcano was still erupting.

On our last day there, we hiked up a volcano that had erupted on this island back in the 60's.  This cross was something the people put up to memorialize what had happened and to celebrate that they were able to return to their beloved island.  Though this volcano had erupted back in the 60's, smoke was still coming out of some of the crevices near the top and when Todd put a piece of paper over once such spot, it immediately caught fire.

The boys.  And yes, it was fifty something degrees and my husband was in short sleeves.  Story of my life.

Underwater earthquakes had caused tectonic plates to shift and that is the bumpy line you see that goes off into the ocean.

We ferried back over to Reykjavik and toured around a little more for one last night.

Todd and Eddie were a bit giddy over the fact that they were drinking the first diet coke they'd had in almost one whole week.

We got to go to The Blue Lagoon, and yes, I swam in its supposed healing waters.

Usually the water is more blue, but on this day it was milk colored.  It felt amazing, and so did the dirt in the bottom of the pools.  (This was only in the entrance.)  I have sensitive skin that is easily irritated, so Sheila told me I should rub it all over.  It felt amazing, and I'm pretty sure that afterward, my skin had never felt so soft.

It was an amazing trip, and I cried in saying goodbye to everyone that we'd met.

In leaving Iceland, we flew over Greenland!

It's so ironic that Iceland is green and Greenland is ice.  God's creation is something else.

It was an amazing ten days filled with story after story of things that God did either for one of us on the trip, or for someone else that God used us to minister to while there.  We formed lifetime friendships with some amazing people (whom we are friends with and get to "see" all the time, thanks to social media!), I got to try really cool new things, and I learned to trust God above all else, when things go a little haywire with our earthly plans.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this as much as I enjoyed writing about it.  It was a little lengthy, and I even left out a bunch of pictures.  I could go on and on about this all day.

Thanks for reading!  Love to all.

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