Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lately


Hello blog world, it has been awhile! Here's a brief rundown of some things we've been up to lately:

(1) A trip to the mountains
In October we had a reunion with our Sweden summer project in the NC mountains. And the timing of it happened to hit on our fall break. So we got to head up a little early and enjoy some down time in the mountains. We went to Bryson City for two nights and it was beautiful. We went right as the leaves changed. And here's the view we had from our hotel, not too shabby...


I'm not sure why I look so confused. Maybe just cold?

On our way back to Black Mountain, where the project reunion was, we stopped in Asheville at the Biltmore House. Josh had never been, so it was so cool to get to go with him. My mom met us up there and we all had a great time at the house and Stable Cafe for lunch, yum!


Then we went to project reunion and had a great time catching up with our team!

(2) Half marathon training
No, not me. Never. Josh is running a half marathon this coming weekend. So proud of him and all the training he's done to get ready for it. Meanwhile, I've been sitting on the couch. Yep...Anyways, in October we went to the beach and he did a 10k in Ocean Isle. He did a great job and we got in some good beach time and of course a trip to one of our fav restaurants Bummz. Pictures and details to come post-race this weekend.

(3) I got to see my best buds (or bugs as I accidently just typed) from college for dinner this past weekend. These are the girls I got to live with in a duplex my senior year. We had a BLAST hanging out at Firebirds. We literally stayed for 4 hours. Sorry waitress. We laughed, reminisced, caught up, and did I mention laugh?! These women bring so much life and joy to me and it was so fun to be with them all again, even though the 4 hours went way too fast! Is it March yet so we can all hang out again?!


Ok, well that's all I can think of now. I'll get back to watching the CMAs. Yea, you read that right. The Country Music Awards. Josh, who doesn't even like country, put it on for some reason. And I'm kind of into it so we just keep watching it. I guess that's what happens when Modern Family's not on...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cool story

Not much time to update on life right now, I'll try to do that again soon. But I just came across this really cool story on CNN about the Chilean miners. The Jesus Film, which is affiliated with Campus Crusade for Christ who we work with, was able to send down some things to the miners to encourage them. Such an awesome story, check it out here.

:)
Erin

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall Faves

So I'm totally copying other bloggers right now. Two of my friends, Nichole and Haley periodically post some "favorites" in life at the moment. In light of fall FINALLY being here, thought I'd post some of my Fall faves...

(1) Hot Apple Blasts at Carribou: I could have looked up the calories in it, but then it would no longer be a fav. I'm sure its awful for me. But on a crisp day, there's nothing like that caramel apple cider. Man, I wish I had one right now. Let's be honest, I'm probably going to get one in the morning.

(2) All things pumpkin: Fall is awesome because it means it is socially acceptable to bust out the canned pumpkin and start baking. And I already have. Made pumpkin dip this weekend and IT IS DELISH. Here is the recipe in case you want to try it (thanks to Jeanette for passing it along!):

3/4 c cream cheese (6 oz.)
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c canned pumpkin
2 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Put first 3 ingredients in bowl and beat with mixer really well until cream cheese lumps are out. Add syrup and cinnamon and beat until smooth. Cover and chill for 30 min. Serve with apples or ginger snaps.

(3) Good TV: With the exception of So You Think You Can Dance and the occasional Bachelor/Bachelorette, summer TV leaves a lot to be desired. So fun that the good shows are back! Liz Lemon, Michael Scott, Jeff Probst, Heidi Klum and many others...I have missed thee.

(4) Football: Haha, no not really football in and of itself. (Although, side note, I did join a fantasy football league this weekend!) But there's nothing like a nice fall day in Kenan stadium (especially when we can actually win). And really just all of campus in the fall is so beautiful, I love getting to walk around campus this time of year.

(5) November and December are close-ish: October is really great, but it also means November and December aren't that far away. And that means time with family, fun traditions, getting to decorate and that my bday is just around the corner.

Welcome fall, I'm glad you're here!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Other recent happenings

Ok, I've finally recovered from the blob and can now update on other recent happenings in the Smith household. This will probably be random as I'm trying to update you on a month's worth of stuff. Here we go...

In August we started up another year at UNC...my 8th here on staff. I really cannot believe it's been that long. I guess I'm not blending in with the college students as much anymore since one of them called me middle-aged last year. Yea, funny story, ask me sometime! Then at fall retreat a few weeks a girl asked what year I was and I told her I was on staff. "Yea, I thought you looked older" she said. Ok, I got it guys, I don't look 22 anymore, huh?!

Anyways, its been a great start of school so far. Lots of fun students around and I'm getting to work with my girls from last year who are SENIORS now. Crazy! It's always a blitz the first month or so and although we love it, it's nice we finally have some time to breathe again.

A few weeks ago we got to go to Kansas for a long weekend to celebrate Josh's parents 40th wedding anniversary! I hadn't seen most of his family since Christmas (too long!!) so it was really great to be with them again. We celebrated the anniversary with a great dinner out, Josh got to hit up a Kansas State game with his bros, I got some shopping in with my sister in laws which was so fun and we got to see our super cute nephews and nieces. That was a long sentence. Anyways yes, cute nieces and nephews. Two of my favorite kid moments of the weekend. My niece Ella had her bday party while we were there and she LOVES princesses. Duh, what 4 year old girl doesnt?! Anyways, she got a card that when she opened it had a song from Little Mermaid. She gasped really loud and looked like she was going to cry from excitement. One of the cutest things ever. Ok second cute story was when we were out to dinner for the anniversary. We gave Josh's parents their present which was this cool picture that had their wedding pic and each of their kids' wedding pics on it. Props to my bro in law for a great gift. Anyways, super-cute nephew Ike, after Josh's mom opened the present and was thanking us, exclaimed, "I KNEW you would LOVE it Granny!!" Presh!

So, trip to KS was a great time and ended too quick! While we were there we took some family pictures. I don't know how to put them up here (or even if I am allowed to) since we went through a photographer but here's a link to check them out if you want:


Hmm, what else has been going on lately. Oh, Josh decided in August that he wanted to run a half marathon (when i was typing just now i typed "we wanted to run a marathon" by accident. noooooooo!!!! definitely not true!). So he's been training for that. I'm so proud of how disciplined he's been- he's already up to 7 miles! He's running in November at the Outer Banks so I'm excited to go watch (yes, definitely just watch) his race!

Well I can't think of anything else exciting and am also getting sleepy so Seacrest Out. Sorry no pics this time. You can just refer to our pic on the right side at the top of the blog if youre really wanting a pic I guess!

Until next time...
Erin

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hmm...I wonder why my back hurts?

This past weekend we went on UNC's annual Fall Retreat. Good ol' Camp Dixie in the bustling metropolis of Fayetteville, NC. This weekend is always a highlight of the year for me as it's a fun time of meeting lots of new students. This year we had 240 students attend! The theme of the weekend was "Real Life" and our speaker (the college pastor at the Summit church) talked about how Jesus alone offers real life, verses the "so-called life" we often settle for. Side note: every time he referenced the "so-called life" I of course pictured Jered Leto and Claire Danes (there used to be a show named that in the 90s.) At one point he asked if anyone had ever heard of the TV show and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who raised my hand. What a tragedy.

Ok, I digress. It was a great weekend with lots of fun students. "Erin, but why is your back hurting?" you 5 readers out there may be wondering from the title of this post. Camp Dixie may be best known for a little something called "The Blob." The blob is this huge inflatable "pillow of air" (I just asked Josh how he'd describe it and that's what he came up with...) in the lake. How it works is that someone sits at the end of the "pillow of air" and someone else jumps on the back of it shooting the person up in the air and into the lake.

So I've been to Camp Dixie like 5 times by now. Every year I see people do the blob and every year I think it's a bad idea. This year was different. I really don't know what came over me but as I was sitting there watching students go, I was like, I really need to try this. So I grabbed Josh (yea, that was my first mistake) and we climbed the ladder to blob it up. You're really only supposed to have 60 lbs difference between the blobber and blobbee (??) but we just went for it anyways. 130 lbs difference is no big deal right?!

Thankfully there was a student video-ing so you can relieve this moment with me. It was so hilarious...well let's be honest, scary at the time but hilarious looking back on it.


I think my favorite parts are (1) the screams of the people watching and taping (2) how I decide to run in place when I'm midair like that was going to accomplish anything. So, needless to say, that is why the back is hurting since Saturday. Maybe a little blob whiplash?! Totally worth it to have that video though! I think I'll suggest Camp Dixie puts an age limit on the blog...29 is too old!
video

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The rest of our summer


Well, I did it again. I let a month pass before I updated the blog. Not a great start for this new blogger. But, I'll try to make up for it by catching you up on all we've been up to since I last posted.

First of all, we're back from Sweden. We got back in late June and spent a few weeks just enjoying being back in our little casa. We really did love our time in Sweden, but there's nothing like being back in our home, sweet home. The jet lag was a little rougher coming back than going there. I think for at least the first week we crashed each night around 9:00 and woke up around 6 or so. I was hoping that I'd suddenly become a morning person who would always wake up at 6. But, nope, that didn't stick at all.

About a week after we got back, Josh headed to Kansas for a wedding. I didn't go this trip because we're both going in September and it was such a short trip this time. Josh's friend Jeremiah got married and he had a great time getting to see friends in Manhattan (the Kansas one, that is) for a few days. And he got to see the fam while there too, so it was a great trip. I can't wait to see everyone when we go back in September! Here's are a few pics.




In July we were supposed to go to a big family reunion with my mom's side of the family. It was in Gulf Shores, AL so alas, we did not go due to the oil spill. We ended up going with part of the family to Cape May, NJ instead. Although I didn't see Snooky or The Situation, we still had a great time. Ok, I've actually never seen Jersey Shore and who knows if I even spelled those names right. Anyways, we got to see some family we don't get to see very often and had a great time hanging at the beach and exploring the cute little town. Here's the fam we got to see...


We drove to NJ and stopped in Baltimore on both the way up and back. We even got to take a tour of Camden Yards while we were there! Here is Josh, my mom and I at the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.



After our beach trip, we spent some time at home and in Charlotte working on support and getting things ready for the school year to start. It seems like usually we don't have much time at home in the summer because of summer projects and conferences. So this summer was really great getting to have so much time after Sweden to actually be at home. We got to do some fun summer things like going to a Durham Bulls game, spending some time at our neighborhood pool, checking out some new restaurants and hitting up the Carrboro farmer's market. That last one was a fun adventure. We brought a plastic bag with us to carry our stuff home and I'm surprised we made it out of there alive, not being "green"and all! Should probably bring a tote bag next time.

We ended our summer with a trip to North Myrtle Beach with my dad and stepmom. Ah, we love going there! We ate great seafood, had some chill time on the beach and good time with the fam. Josh even got to utilize his techie skills loading and hooking up their new TV. While he was doing that I was being super helpful watching the finale of the Bachelorette. Sorry fam :) I have no pictures from this trip. Envision a tent set up on the beach, 4 chairs under it, lots of books and magazines and me taking a nap. That's pretty much what it looked like.

So that's what we've been up to since Sweden. Congrats on making it through this long update! Hopefully I'll keep you up to date a little more regularly from now on!

Monday, July 12, 2010

End of Project


As a new blogger I'd hoped I wouldn't let it go a month without posting. But here we are already back from Sweden and I'm just now posting about it. I think part of why it has taken so long is because it's hard to sum up our time in Sweden. We had a great summer there. Uppsala is beautiful. The pace of life is so refreshing. We loved biking and walking everywhere (well, most days we did). We had a great summer with 23 awesome students. It was an interesting summer getting to talk with Swedes about who God is, many of whom had never thought much about Him existing.

But in many ways it was also a hard summer. It was hard to see a country where everyone had everything they needed physically but lacked so much. Sweden is spiritually a very hard and dark place, which is sad considering how centuries ago it was one of the largest missionary-sending nations. The focal point of Uppsala is a giant cathedral (we've had pics of it on earlier posts)...anytime you got turned around you could see the church and orient yourself again. A city and even country that used to be so centered on Christ now sees Him as irrelevant to their lives. It was hard to see that reality and the hopelessness and lack of purpose students there lived with.

We were so thankful for the opportunity to spend this summer in Sweden. Here's a little update on what we did our last few weeks there:

Like we've mentioned before, there are some long-term staff with Campus Crusade that live in Sweden. So the last week we were there, it was crucial for us to connect our new friends we met with the long-term staff. Each of us wrote letters to friends we made and gave them to the staff team, who will be able to follow up with them later. We're excited to hear how the conversations continue to go as the staff team meets with our friends later.

We spent our last day there doing lots of packing and picking up last minute souvenirs we wanted (I bought tons of candy bars and bags of tea as presents! Glad we had enough space somehow for all of it!). It was so fun to have one last day to walk around the city that had been our home for the summer. Then we had one last dinner with the other staff couple we were with. Here's a picture of some of us at lunch the last day...


The last day we also had a photo shoot at domkyran, the church at the heart of town. Here's one of the ones of our whole group:


Friday, June 18th we packed up and headed to Munich to begin our debrief. We were there for 3 nights, spending time with our team and sharing what we'd learned this summer. We each had a rock we were given and wrote one word that summarized our summer on it. It was so cool to hear what God taught each of the students. One shared the word "power" because they had seen God's power in new ways. One shared "simple" because God had showed him how simple and beautiful the Gospel is, not only to those he was ministering to, but in his own life as well. I wrote "intimacy" on mine because this was a summer when I found new depth and intimacy with my relationship with God. It's so neat because I was praying (and had others praying for me) that I would simply fall in love with Jesus again this summer and not be so fixated on the to-dos of ministry. It was so neat to see how God answered that this summer. We also talked some as a team about how to transition well after project. It was a great last few days with our team overseas.

One of the highlights for me was our day trip to Austria! It was only an hour and a half train ride so we figured we'd better take advantage of it and go. That is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been. Old, gorgeous buildings, cobblestone streets, rolling hills..it really was amazing! I decided to go with some of the students on the Sound of Music tour. I've never seen the movie (I know, I know...I need to see it) but it was so cool to ride around and see the countryside. I took some pics but don't have them on me now, so I'll have to post them later.

The most random part of our debrief was that on our Sound of Music tour, Jim Caviezel was on our bus (he was Jesus in "Passion of the Christ" and is in a bunch of other movies like "Frequency" and "Count of Monte Cristo")! It was definitely him and he was there with his family. We didn't get his autograph but we did sneek a picture or two of him. We couldn't believe of all the places to see a celeb it would be in Salzburg, Austria!

On June 22nd we left our hostel, carried our 4 bags each of luggage to the train station (stressful!), and headed to the airport to head back to America. It was quite the adventure making sure we didnt lose anyone from one place to the next. By the time we got to our gate, we only had 20 minutes to spare so we definitely cut it close! 9 hours later (whew, so long on a plane!) we landed back in America.

We so loved our time in Sweden and will never forget it! Thanks for keeping up with our travels on here! We'll keep blogging but just about our life here in the USA! Until next time...

Erin

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A while ago


Forever ago we went to Stockholm for the day. I'm just now getting around to posting some pics from the trip. It's only a 40 minute train ride and is such a beautiful city to visit. Here's Jen (the other staff girl) and I on the train:



And we didn't realize this until later but Josh snapped this great pic of us...



This pic cracks me up everytime I look at it. We look so mad to be on the train.

Anyways, once we got to Stockholm we walked around, did a little shopping and enjoyed eating at different restaurants (the ones in Uppsala are getting a little old now). It was a fun free day with our team! Here are some pics:










There was some national event going on the day we were there, so they had a huge band playing outside of the royal palace.




For dinner that night we went to a nice restaurant we had been to back in October when we were here with our UNC staff team for the vision trip. I opted for some amazing pesto pasta and Josh thought some reindeer sounded good. Yep, reindeer meat. Here's a pic of it



So that was our day in Stockholm! Blog again soon!

Erin

Estonia


So, if you tuned in last blog we were taking a cruise to a land called Estonia. I don't think I had ever heard of this country before to be honest. So we didn't know what to expect. We got there in the late morning and had until dinner time to walk around. The city was really pretty- on the water with really old buildings everywhere. An old church was one of the first things we saw and it was beautiful. This is the best pic we got of it so you can't really tell how cool it was:



We wanted to climb to the top of it but it cost money so we passed. After that, we just walked around the city looking at the buildings and going in cute shops (if there was any doubt about who was writing this you now know its Erin with the word "cute"). Here are a few more pics:






And here we are on an ancient pile o' rocks...



Probably the highlight for Josh was shooting bows and arrows. Yep, you heard me right. Estonia liked to play up its medieval-ness so they had a place where you could pay to shoot arrows. He had to wear a cape and everything. He did surprisingly well having never done that before and got lots on the target. We'll post a video of it later but heres a pic of it:




Let's be honest, that was my favorite part of the day too. So hilarious! After our step back in time, we went to lunch. Had great Italian food downtown at an outdoor cafe. The most random point of the day was while we were eating lunch we looked over and saw this




People dressed up as Russian dolls. You know, the usual. They were passing out flyers for something but we couldn't read the language so we're not sure what it was for. Oh Estonia! The country used to be part of the USSR so there is a neat mixture of Europe and Russia there. Thus the Russian doll-fest.

So that was our mid-project trip! More soon about our last week and a half in Sweden!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Say what?!


We see this sign every day as we walk back to our hostel and it always makes me laugh.



Any guesses on how to pronounce it?
Erin









Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cruising back in time


Hello faithful blog readers! Thanks for stopping by (college roomies- you know that video of that kid from New Mexico popped into my head when I just typed that.."Hello my future girlfriend....bye, thanks for stopping by!") Ok, I digress...

We're back in Sweden after our 2 day cruise to Estonia (we got back on Tuesday but I'm just now having time to blog it up). What an adventure! Before we left, the other staff with us warned us not to set our expectations too high and that the word "cruise" may be used liberally here. So I was a little nervous heading to Stockholm on Sunday...what exactly am I getting myself into? Is this going to be a little ferry boat that we're sailing through the Baltic on? And mostly...why, oh why didn't I bring Dramamine with me?!

Thankfully my fears were not realized as we pulled up and saw this...



Yay, a real cruise ship! We boarded late afternoon on Sunday, got settled into our miniature room and left the dock around dinner time. There are a lot of little islands off the coast of Stockholm, so it was beautiful to see them as we sailed by.

The cruise, like any in the US, had a big buffet. Unlike the US cruise ships however, I didn't know what much of the food was. What I did know was what cheese and crackers looked like so I went with that for dinner the first night. Josh was a little more adventurous in his food selection- some pasta with mystery meat in it and such. We had purchased the cruise tickets about a week before we left back in Uppsala and found out that if you wanted unlimited soda it was going to be like $20 more. We decided we could all drink water for that long and opted out of that expense for the project. What we didn't realize until that first night at dinner was that the water was not included for free either. Water? Are you serious?! After much miscommunication with our waitress (a hilarious moment that I can't do justice to over blogging) we realized that we could either buy $3 bottles of water or not have anything to drink. We opted for the expensive water rather than spend night #1 parched. Random moment #1 of many. Here is some of our group at dinner:


From dinner time Sunday until about 10 am Monday morning, we cruised the Baltic Sea headed for Estonia. There were so many hilarious moments on that cruise. The first night we decided to check out the entertainment and shows they had going on. And I am so glad we did. They had a band playing lots of early 90's obscure hits. Such as "Crush" by some girl band I can't remember, some Sheryl Crow tunes (which we did the electric slide to...why not?!) and "Achy, Breaky Heart." I really don't think I've heard that song in at least 10 years and I've heard it twice now since I've been in Sweden. Anyways, the band was called "Night Flight" which just made me laugh (1) at how cheesy the name was (2) how we aren't on a flight but on a boat and (3) how all of their outfits and decorations were straight out of the early 90s. I definitely felt like I was on a time traveling cruise ship. Side note: here we are on the boat. It was a little windy if you can't tell...




Wow, this is long. We haven't even gotten to Estonia yet :) I've just decided this post is going to be about the cruise and I'll do a separate one about Estonia.

So yes, the cruise was hilarious. One of the highlights for me was that they had Karaoke. Um, yes please!! The first night there were alot of people signing up so I didn't sing but alot of the students did. A little Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys and lots of Swedes singing Mama Mia (shocker!). Random moment #100 was hearing a middle-aged Swedish man sing "Feelings, nothing more than Feelings."

We headed back to our tiny cabin later that night and tried to figure out how we were going to sleep in these little beds. Not me so much, but Josh. There were 4 bunk beds sandwiched in there- Josh finally found the one where his feet could hang off of the end most comfortably and called it a night. Our bathroom was hilarious too. The don't really have dividers between toilets and showers here in Sweden and they definitely didn't in the tiny cabin bathrooms. So anytime one of us would shower the entire bathroom would be soaked.

So we arrived safe and sound Monday morning in Estonia and had the day to explore (more on that later). That afternoon, we hopped back on the cruise and headed back across the Baltic. By the trip back we discovered that there was a children's buffet with fries and chicken nuggets so I sneaked that instead of eating cheese for dinner again. All 27 of us bought drinks in Estonia so we wouldn't have to drink $3 bottles of water.

And since I missed my 15 minutes of Karaoke fame on the first night, I made sure to get my name on the list early. I sang "No Scrubs" with some of the girls. I never realized how much the chorus repeated itself until we were all standing up there repeating it about 80 times. Then Josh and I finished out the night with "I Swear," a cheesy 90's love song, which I could barely sing because Josh was making me laugh so hard. Here's a pic one of the students got of it:



The cruise was really fun- a great time to bond and just have good down time with our summer project team. It was refreshing to have some time away before we wind down ministry on campus. We've had 3 days of ministry this week and will have 4 next week before we head to Germany for debriefing on Friday. Hard to believe our time here is coming to a close!

Erin


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Medieval Times

Sorry for the lack of pics lately..I keep meaning to post about our trip to Stockholm but I need to track down some pictures first so it still has happened. But today we head to our mid-project retreat. We are, randomly, going to Estonia. It's a country across the Baltic Sea from Sweden (yea I'd never heard of it either!). We head to Stockholm today by bus, get on the cruise ship (they might use the term cruise ship loosely here...we'll see!) And head to Estonia overnight by ship. We'll spend tomorrow (Monday) in Estonia looking around the city called Tallin (I probably spelled that wrong).

From what we've heard its a well preserved city where some of the buildings date back to the 800s. What?! We've heard it's a beautiful city that looks like a fairy tale, according to Swedes we've asked. Our American friends who have been said it looks like Shrek. So here we go, fun medieval times ahead! Hope unlike the Medieval Times in Myrtle Beach I'll be able to use a fork and knife at restaurants :)

We'll be back on the blog after we get back Tuesday!

Erin

Ministry lately

So we have been doing a few other things besides jumping off high dives and watching high schoolers ride in dump trucks :) This past week was an exciting one for ministry. Students are beginning to have exams now, so it has been a little harder to meet them since everyone is really busy. Last Monday, however, we had a cookout which we invited our Swedish friends to. Since it's exam time and considering the apathy of many Swedes we weren't sure how many folks would actually attend. Last year the summer project did a similar event and only a few folks came.

We were SO excited when 20 students ended up coming!! We were able to just hang out, play games with them, and get into further conversations with some of them about spiritual things. The long-term staff in Sweden were at the cookout, which was great because they are now connected with these students and can keep having conversations with them long after we're gone.

One of the students we've met this summer is named Elin. Elin met Theresa (one of the summer project girls from UNC-W) the first week we were here. When Theresa asked her what she thought about God, she said "For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son." Theresa was totally shocked! Many students here have been to confirmation class when they were younger and for most it is a hoop to jump through because of tradition. Many students I've talked to honestly only went to confirmation because they get presents after they're through! But for Elin, this verse she heard years and years ago stuck with her. She told Theresa she didn't really know what it meant though, it had just stuck with her for some reason. Theresa was able to tell her what it meant and explain the Gospel to her. Through their conversations, Elin decided she wanted to read the Bible and her and Theresa are continuing to meet to talk about it.

Another student we've met is named Emme. Rachel and Meredith, two girls from Duke, met her two weeks ago. They talked to her some about spiritual things and she was interested enough to meet back up for "fika" this week. They decided to bring Chrysta, one of the long-term staff, along with them so Emme could meet her. Although she is still not sure if God is real, she decided she wanted to read through the Gospel of John with Chrysta, Rachel and Meredith. Chrysta remarked later than in her year in Sweden doing ministry, this was the best conversation she has had. Thank you so much for your prayers for the ministry here. These stories, and many others, have reminded us that God is at work here softening hearts.

As encouraging as these stories are, the reality is this is spiritually still a very dark place. A few nights ago some of our students went to a park to hang out. The park was packed and one of our students asked what was going on. It sadly turns out that this was a "hook up" party where people come to meet a girl or guy and invite them back to their apartments. As the students looked out at the hundreds of Swedes there, their hearts broke at how many people were there looking for satisfaction from partying and sex, when really Christ alone is who can satisfy their souls. It has been absolutely overwhelming and heartbreaking at times to see how many things Swedish students are running to to try to find life and satisfaction. As much as our hearts break for them, we know Jesus' does more:

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." -Matthew 9:36

Pray with us that God would open Swedes' eyes to see that HE is ultimately what they are searching for. And that they would run to the Good Shepherd that loves them more than they could imagine.

Erin

Saturday, June 5, 2010

10m High Dive

Josh here...I'm back!

This is not among the stupidest things I've done in my life, but it was on the scarier side.

Today some of the guys went to a indoor swimming facility here in Uppsala. They had Olympic regulations dives. 1m, 3m, 5m spring boards. And 5m, 7m, and 10m platform dives. Don't ask why but I went straight to the top. Go big or go home I guess. Approaching the edge of the board made me second guess why this was a good idea. 33.3 feet doesn't seem like much in any other context. But if you are going to subject yourself to gravity at that height its quite a rush. It was the most unnatural thing in the world to approach the edge and let go. I'm sure if we had a close up of my face you'd see fear in the whites of my eyes.

Here is the result. Quite a splash. My friends from Willmington, Ben and Kyle offer some commentary...


Two other guys did it to... Here is Scott, student from UNC. Right before he jumps listen for, "I can't believe I'm doing this."




And here is Treece, other staff guy from Willmington.




Dumptruck Graduations

Remember high school graduation? The feeling of 13 years of school winding down and college just on the horizon? The fun of celebrating with your friends...piling into the back of a dumptruck with 30 of your closest friends and riding around town? Yea...me neither.

Yesterday was graduation day for high schools in Sweden. And the tradition, for some odd reason, is that students' parents rent dump trucks and tractors and people pile into the back of it. This is hands down one of the funniest phenomenons of Sweden I've witnessed so far. They load up speakers and blast music and everyone just stands in the back of these trucks and sing and yell. And the poor truck drivers drive them around town ALL DAY! I cracked up each time one drove by...which was a lot. So congrats class of 2010, YOUUU DID IT! Maybe next year go for a cookout instead??

Erin


Friday, May 28, 2010

Funny Things

Hello again from Sweden! We're wrapping up our second full week of ministry and headed into a much needed weekend (our tiredness has caught up with us the last few days!). Tomorrow we're going to Stockholm for the day so we'll post again after that!

In the meantime, I was thinking today about a couple of funny things that have happened so far. Thought I should blog about it:

-Yesterday I was walking through downtown and saw a high school band playing. As I got closer I was thinking, this song sounds really familiar. Finally I realized it was "The Rose" by Bette Midler. So many things are different in Sweden than in America. But school bands around the world are rocking out to The Rose. Couldn't help but think back to how I played that song on my flute back in the day :)

-Sunday after church some of our team was jonesing for McDonald's. At first I was planning to get a hamburger, but as I looked at the menu, was relieved to see that the #9 combo exists here too....


My secret is out, I love a good Filet o Fish. And being in Sweden was no exception. The guy making the puke face is Scott, one of the students with us from UNC. He's making fun of me and how 99% of the world's population would never order such a thing.

-Last night Josh and I went out on a date and ended up at an Irish Pub. We were excited to get fish and chips and shepherd's pie (which they ended up being out of so bummer!). Anyways, as we were eating, an interesting song came on in the restaurant...Achy, Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. How hilarious to be sitting in an Irish pub in Sweden listening to Billy Ray. Talk about worlds colliding!

-After dinner on Tuesday we were walking past one of the "nations" which turn into clubs at night. There was a huge line of people waiting to get in. All of a sudden a marching band comes blaring down the street and heads into the club. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a marching band parading down a street on a Tuesday and head into a club...I''d have one dollar. Drumline 3: the streets of Sweden comes out in theaters soon :) (Josh got a video of this event which we'll post later)

-My favorite moment came today. I was having lunch with a girl on project when we heard these really loud sounds. It kept happening over and over again and we couldn't figure out what it was. We kept looking around and no one seemed concerned, so we figured we wouldn't be either. I left lunch and headed to campus and while I was walking, I heard the loud booms again. Finally, I decided to stop someone and ask what was up. "Do you speak English?" I asked the girl passing by. "Yes" she said. "What is that noise?!" I asked. "It's the cannons going off near the castle." She replied. "Oh," I replied, glad to know what it was, but now a;armed about why cannons were going off. "So why are they going off?" I said. "I guess someone's coming," she remarked and kept walking. I thought to myself, "SOMEONE'S coming? Like who? Another country to invade? A famous person? What did she mean?!" Thankfully, I found out later Sweden was not at war. They were being fired for a special event being held in Uppsala. Whew!

I'm sure as the summer goes on we will have many more funny stories! I'll leave you with one last picture. Nothing funny happened here, but thought the blog entry needed another pic. This is Josh and I and the other staff couple Ben and Jen from UNC-Wilmington by the river that runs through Uppsala.


Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Erin

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A typical week

Hey ya'll! I've missed the word ya'll so I thought I'd bust it out in the blog at least. We just finished our debriefing time for the day and have a quick break before dinner. So I thought I'd post and let you know what our schedule is like here. Here is a glimpse of life on Sweden Summer Project...

MONDAYS:
9:45: we gather as a project for praise and worship time, followed by our prayer meeting
11:30: we pair up and head to the nation lunches (refer to earlier post if you don't know what I'm talking about). We usually spend an hour and a half to two hours initiating with Swedes at lunch and talking to them about life in Sweden and spiritual things.
2:00: staff mtg at a cafe downtown. This is where we do our planning and talk through what we're teaching at training times/discipleship/men's and women's times that week, do some planning, brainstorm how to move forward in evangelism and community-building, etc.
4:30: each day at this time we meet back at the apartments to debrief about what happened with ministry that day. Always encouraging to hear stories of the Gospel being shared, people's interest being piqued, etc.
*our monday nights are free to get dinner in groups, meet back up with Swedes if we have appointments, hang out as a team, get caught up on rest, etc for the rest of the night.

TUESDAYS:
9-11: we have our training time called "equip." We as staff are taking turns leading these times and addressing apologetic questions, such as why does God allow suffering? and why is christianity the only way to God? today Josh led our time on the latter question and did a great job!
11:30: nation lunches everyday
2-4: tuesdays through fridays at this time we either (1) meet with the students on project for discipleship or (2) do ministry with Swedes (doing Soularium surveys, meeting backup with Swedes we've met at nations to dialogue more, etc.)
4:30: debrief as usual
*every other tuesday, the ministry here (called Agape, cause "Campus Crusade" would be a bad idea in Europe) have their weekly meetings. So tonight some of the group is going to that. Some Tuesdays we have small group dinners with the project, where we randomly group people so they can meet each other. Last week I was grouped with 3 students I didn't know well so it was fun to get to know them in a smaller setting.

WEDNESDAYS:
10-11:30: praise and worship and extended time with the Lord
11:30: nation lunches
2-4: same as other days
4:30: debrief
dinner: on your own
7-9: men's and women's times. Tomorrow Josh is coming to the women's time and the two of us are doing a talk on relationships!

THURSDAYS:
9-11: Bible studies (I'm leading 8 of the project girls, Josh has a group of 4 guys)
11:30: you guessed it, nation lunches!
2-4: same as other days
4:30: debrief
evenings: free for people to get dinner with Swedish friends. Josh and I have this as our date night!

FRIDAYS:
morning: free to spend time with the Lord, do laundry, planning, etc
11:30: nation lunch
2-4: same as other days
4:30: debrief
dinner: together with the whole project! last week we took over a pizza place with all 27 of us!

SATURDAYS:
most of the day is free but at some point in the day we have a social, which our community team plans. Last week we cooked Mexican food for the project and watched soccer. Ok, I didn't watch soccer, but some people did :) This Saturday we are taking the train to Stockholm for the day!!

SUNDAYS:
10-10:45: walk to church. yep, 45 minutes of walking...
11-12ish: church. I say "ish" because last Sunday it went until 1:00. woa.
lunch and afternoon are free. I usually take the obligatory Sunday nap, which I also take in America.
5-6:30: ministry team meetings. there are 3 teams, community, evangelism and prayer. Each of the staff coach a team and are responsible for brainstorming, planning and carrying out things in each area. I coach the community team and Josh the EV team.

Whew, that was alot. And probably pretty monotonous to read through, but we wanted to give you a glimpse into what our typical days here look like. Although the schedule may not seem tiring, I'm definitely starting to feel it today! Although it has been a privilege to get to know Swedish students, it has been a lot of initiating which can be draining for so many hours each day.

We are still really enjoying our time here, though, and it has been amazing how many conversations we have gotten into with students here. I was talking to a girl Friday who did not believe in God. We asked her why and she shared that she couldn't believe without 100% proof. But then she added that often, she is jealous of those who do believe in God. She said "their lives are so rich and many times I wish I could experience that." What a glimpse into these students' hearts! Pray for this friend and many others- that we will have more opportunities to talk with them and that God would reveal that He IS true, has revealed Himself to us in many ways and is worth believing in!

Erin

p.s. sorry no pics, we'll post some the next time
p.p.s. i said "etc." at least 40 times in the post i think...oops


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Our Home in Sweden

It has been requested by my mom to share where we live.

We have some great housing here in Sweden. It is quiet and cozy. Our group is staying at a hotel complex of 5 buildings. 27 of us are shoe-horned into 6 units. It is clean and accommodating for our time here in Sweden. Erin and I have a little studio room that is about 200 sq. ft. Here are some pics of our set-up.


1- Our front door immediately leads into our closet which is conveniently located next to the fire blanket.



2- Two steps into the place you pass the dividing wall and enter our Living Room / Bed Room / Dining Room. This is where we sleep, 2 twin beds bumped against each other. For the record my bed is the one next to the wall. It is a cot and has wheels. It moves alot so we pinned against the wall and Erin's bed. The real reason for me writing all this is so you all can know the cot is much harder than the bed. I love my wife so I get the padded ply-wood. Strangely, I'm kinda enjoying it.



3- A view from where Erin is facing from the second picture. That door leads into the bathroom. And if you were wondering, we are pretty confident...no quite certain everything you see in this room is from IKEA.




4- Same view as picture 3 just panned a little left. Our kitchen and dining room table. With the hallway between the table and the bed. The kitchenette includes 2 cabinets for storage, a small fridge on the bottom left, a small stove top (conveniently holding our cereal boxes). And a small sink directly below the microwave.



5- And in this corner, directly opposite the kitchenette we have a TV we've never watched cause we don't speak Swedish, a table that is holding random belongings that have no home but use consistently like books, make-up bags and electrical devices, along with our luggage tucked below.


6 and 7 - And finally, the bathroom. In fine European fashion they've successfully wedged in this room a full bathroom within about 18 square feet. It is small, functional and...small. Maybe the worst part of the whole set-up is we have to squeegee the floor every time we run the water cause the floor isn't slopped toward the drain.





We've adjusted to the size of the place. It's got everything we need and nothing we don't. And for 6 weeks this is our home, and has begun to feel that way. Honestly, I think this place rivals the North Sunrise Resort we lived in at Clearwater, FL last summer. Mainly because there are a lot fewer bugs.


Josh


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Skull Bike Gang

Hello again from Uppsala! OK, don't worry we haven't joined a Swedish gang but a funny thing did happen this week. Since some of the parts of campus we go to are sort of far away we decided to rent some bikes for the summer. (SO many people here have bikes, it's such a part of their culture here too) So, we got 10 bikes to share between the 27 of us. We went to pick them up on Monday and they were these really nice, new, shiny black and red bikes. As we looked closer later though we saw this...

Each of the bikes has 5-6 of these skull emblems on them. Hilarious! They look so funny lined up in a row at our hostel. We joked that we could now all be in a gang and we'd call ourselves the skull bike gang. I just love that this group of Christians is riding around town with skulls all over our bikes. So funny.


In other news...we're still really loving our time here. Today makes a week that we've been here. The longest I've ever been out of the country has been a week, and to be honest, I'm usually pretty ready to leave by the end of that week. I was praying that that would not happen this time and that I'd be able to be "fully here" and not missing home too much. I'm sure there will be days when I will feel like that some this summer, but I have been so thankful that I haven't felt that at all yet. The city is pretty easy to navigate, we're loving getting to ride our new bikes everywhere, and the fact that everyone speaks English has made it a pretty easy transition.

One thing I'm most loving about Uppsala is their wonderful cafes. There seems to be a cafe on every corner here. It's been fun to check out these different places during our "fika" times. As we may have mentioned before, Swedes take a break in the afternoons sometimes, which they call a "fika." It's a time to meet up with friends and spend one to two hours talking, drinking coffee and eating desserts. Um, yes please. Can we have fika in America por favor?! Anyways, as we form relationships with Swedes we hope to have fika appointments with them. This week I've met two of the girls on project for fika for our discipleship times. It's been fun to try out these different cafes and their great desserts. Hey, since I don't drink coffee, I have to get cake right?!

It's also been fun to go on dates in Europe :) Tonight Josh and I had our first date in Sweden. We rode (which I just spelled wrode and took a second to figure out why spell check said it was wrong...yikes!) our bikes to dinner at this cute Italian place. I had pizza (shocker!) and Josh had pesto pasta. It was so fun to sit outside of this cute little restaurant and then go on a walk around town afterwards. Pretty romantic place to be!

So that's a little update on our past few days. Oh and I'm realizing I didn't post much of a ministry update. That has been really encouraging in our first week. Each day we go to the "nations" to have lunch and meet Swedes. Then we have been doing surveys, playing sports and other things to meet people and have been doing alot of that outside in the afternoons since its been nice weather. Each day at 4:30 we debrief about our days and it's been so cool to hear what God has been doing so far. We as a group have been able to have some great conversations. Before we came here, we were prepared that Swedes can be pretty apathetic and that it is very hard soil here. While that is true, we have been pleasantly surprised at how many people have been open to talking with us. One of my first days here I met two girls that were religion majors. I couldn't believe it- what an easy bridge to talk about the Gospel with them! Many of the people we've met want to meet again for fika. Please pray for us as we continue to initiate (alot!!) and meet new people. Pray that God would soften hearts and cause the Gospel to be beautiful news to them!

Thanks for reading about our time here and for praying for us! We'll post again soon! Oh, I meant to show pics of the inside of our place we're living, so I'll do that soon!

Erin

Monday, May 17, 2010

Domkyrkan- "Dome-sherkan": Cathedral


The largest cathedral in all of Scandinavia resides here in Uppsala. It is massive and beautiful. The amount of history that belongs to Europe is something to ponder. This building is over 600 years old and took almost a century to complete! It stands 390 ft tall. Anywhere in the city you can see it through the skyline. It's been a helpful reference to us while we've been learning the city giving us orientation. These things were built with such awe inspiring design to be a conduit for man to enter the heavens and experience the holiness of God. We pray for worship to again return to this city.

Liquid Holy Spirit

The title of this blog is in honor of Libby Crafton Swenson my old regional director and friend on staff in Colorado. She loves coffee more than I do.

Since we've been here in Sweden I've been enjoying a new form of caffeine. I brought several packs of Starbuck's new instant coffee, Via. It's really good. Better than really good. It's great. On the box it says they micro-grind the bean so it dissolves in hot water. Not a crystal that has been formed in conjunction by some chemicals. So its not flat or twangy on your tongue. Just all natural goodness. And I'm a fan.
I heard good things before, but I never was in a situation that really presented the opportunity. Our current living situation doesn't include a coffee maker, but it does have a microwave. So every morning here includes a solid cup of glory...

Coffee here is crazy expensive... almost $5 for a regular 8 oz. cup at a cafe'. And grounds at the grocery can between $10-12 a bag. Suddenly $0.90 for a instant cup sounds okay by Starbucks.

Leaving for a afternoon of ministry on campus here. Pray for fruit that comes from faith for us today.

- Josh (I guess we need to sign our posts to avoid confusion, although if anyone knows Erin they would know she didn't write this.)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dancing Queen

While learning the streets of Uppsala one of the places we had to find during our photo scavenger hunt was "The Walking Street," a very busy shopping street crowded with people. To document our finding we had to sing and dance to any song by the Swedish sensation ABBA. Really only one song comes to mind... honestly can you name another?


Hej Hej!



Hello from Uppsala, Sweden! (One of the first Swedish words we learned was how to say hello. Hej Hej is hello, which you pronounce "hey hey." Pretty easy to remember!) So in Swedish, hej hej!

We have a little time this afternoon so I thought I'd update you on our first few days here. We left Raleigh on Wednesday at 2:30 pm and flew to Charlotte. I wish all plane rides were 40 minutes long! By the time we reached our cruising altitude, it was about time to start our descent. Once we got to Charlotte we had a couple hours to kill before we left the good ol' US of A. Josh decided he'd better get BBQ while he still could so we had an early dinner, then left for Munich at 6ish. That flight was not 40 minutes long. 8 and a half hours later, though, we were in Germany. We were nervous the Iceland volcano would affect our travel (cause we flew right over Iceland) but it didn't so we were thankful for that! The flight was as nice as a long flight can be though- plenty of movies to watch! One crazy story from the flight was that we actually met another summer project on the flight- they were going to Serbia and also going through Munich. Such a small world!

So we got to Munich at 9 am Germany time (3 am back home) and we were all pretty exhausted. There were college students asleep all over that airport terminal (and a few of us staff too!) We had a 5 hour layover there so that was a bummer, but at least I was able to get about an hour of sleep which I desperately needed. Then at 1:30 we boarded our last flight to Sweden. The airport we flew into is near Stockholm so once we got our bags we took vans to Uppsala- the city we'll be doing ministry in this summer. Side note- we travelled with 27 people over here and all of our bags made it...well done Lufthansa!

We came straight to the apartments we're staying at for the summer and unloaded our stuff. Here is a picture of the outside of the apts so you can have a visual of where we live.



It's so cute, I love that they're bright yellow! That night we headed over to the long term staff couple's house and they cooked dinner for all of us. Even though it was only 6:00 at night, we were all exhausted. We somehow managed to stay awake until 8 then came back and crashed. Josh and I slept for 12 hours and it was glorious!

Wow, this is getting long, thanks for still reading. I promise all the posts won't be quite so detailed :) Friday was our first full day here. We had a meeting in the morning to find out some details about ministry in this country and what we'll be doing to partner with the long-term team here. Then we went to these places called "nations" for lunch. Nations are sort-of like fraternities and sororities, except every Swedish student joins one. And these nation houses are where everyone eats lunch each day. So that's where we will go at lunchtime most days to meet students. Friday we went for the first time and one of the American students, Jessica (who goes to UNC) and I had the chance to meet two girls. We got to talk to them a little about their beliefs but hope to have the chance to meet with them again to talk more.

After lunch we all met back up to do a scavenger hunt in the city. That was great at helping us get oriented to Uppsala. It's a beautiful city with a quant little downtown area. It has a river running through it which makes it so pretty. Then Friday night we went out to dinner. Josh and I got pizza...yea, kindof lame to already eat pizza on our first day here! But it was really good!

Yesterday we had a free day- nice to have a day to keep catching up on sleep and unpack our room some more. Our room is small but cute...I'll blog about that and include pics of the inside of it later. So yesterday, Josh got to play disc golf with some of the summer project team and some Swedes (you know if there's a disc golf course around he's gonna find it!) And I went on a run...ok who are we kidding, it was a fast-ish walk...because the weather was perfect yesterday. 70s and sunny, which hardly ever happens here we're told. Then after that I went into downtown (about a 20 min walk) and got some things we needed for our apt. Last night we had burgers and fries for dinner...we are so typical Americans aren't we?!

Today we had the opportunity to go to a Swedish church. So neat to be there with other believers worshipping in a totally different language. We sang "Holy, Holy, Holy" today...so cool to think about the fact that this is a small picture of what heaven will one day look like- different tribes, tongues and nations worshipping Christ! Although neat to worship there this morning, it was also sad to think about what a small percentage of the country was worshipping this morning. Please join us in praying that God would soften hearts of people here to see the beauty of who He is!

Thanks for those of you who read this far! Josh was like "don't write too much" and here I am writing a novel. Next time will be a shorter recap, I promise :) Until then, have a great week!!