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Faces of Inspiration

LAURA TYLER'S STORY OF ENCOUNTERING THE INSPIRATIONAL PEOPLE OF KENYA 

One of the most exciting and inspirational parts of mission work is the people you get to encounter. It is amazing to learn about the impact God leaves in their lives, even if they are struggling or living in rough circumstances. Laura Tyler was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Kenya with Cottonwood Creek's mission team this summer and the people she met there truly touched her life.  

Laura first felt the call to ministry through missions when she was young. "I loved it and always wanted to be a part of it," Laura said. "I was involved in high school and early on in my marriage." After she became a mother, Laura kept looking for opportunities but being away for almost two weeks on a trip was something she couldn't do with young children.  

Six years ago was when Laura felt the prompting to go to Africa. She shared her thoughts with her husband, Keith. "At that time, my oldest daughter, McKinley, was in the sixth grade," Laura said. "She came up to me and said, 'Mom, I want to go on a mission trip and I want to go to Africa.' It was fun for me to hear that sweet confirmation that the Lord was doing the same thing in my daughter's heart that He was doing in mine." The fact that a mission trip to Africa was on McKinley's heart as well as her own made Laura want to do it even more.  

Laura began looking for opportunities but nothing felt right. Then, one morning in church, Bob and Julie Mendonsa of Naomi's Village spoke at Cottonwood Creek. "I started crying and knew this is where we needed to start," Laura said. "At that same moment, McKinley leaned over from four chairs away and whispered, 'Mom, we need to go!'"  

Initially, the Tylers were scheduled to go in the fall of 2013, however the trip was cancelled due to unrest and unsafe travel in the country at the time. Instead, they rescheduled for the following June. Since that first trip in 2014, Laura and the rest of her family hold a special place in their heart for Kenya. 

This summer, Laura and the team were blessed to meet many people with inspirational stories. Whether they personally knew God or not, it was evident that He was still working in their lives. "Most of the days, we were just loving, ministering, and meeting people wherever they were," Laura said. 

This year, the team delivered beds, writing desks, and solar lighting to families in need. With every visit to a family in need, Laura was touched by who she encountered. What was even more touching was the fact that she could already see God working within the families.  

One of the inspirational people Laura met was a woman named Grace. "She was a leader in Mwi’ Hangiri," Laura said. "Mwi’ Hangiri was a village whose people were put in an IDP camp after they were forced to leave because of political unrest in 2008. That year, many villages were attacked and abandoned and many lives were lost." The government issued tents for these IDP camps and declared that everyone was taken care of. This specific group of people from Mwi’ Hangiri were so far back off the main roads, nobody knew they were there. "They were discovered four years ago in plastic tattered tents and coverings that had been issued," Laura said. "Grace is a leader and true prayer warrior of that group."  

When Naomi's Village first discovered the people of Mwi’ Hangiri, the people said they needed a place to worship. Naomi's Village helped build a church for them and, over time, homes. "During this past trip, we were able to see that many families share a home or dwelling in a big rectangular concrete home," Laura said. "Grace shared her testimony and stories about God's faithfulness with us." One story Grace shared with the team was about the people not having food and fearing for their lives. "Someone gave them goats to provide, then the goats got stolen," Laura said. "It was story after story of difficulties but they remained so thankful." Grace said to the team, "The people in my own country do not come visit and you have come from across the world in the United States. You care and want to hear our story and show us your love." Laura was extremely moved by Grace's words and truly saw the importance of relationships for everyone, but especially for believers. 

Laura and the team had the chance to meet another incredible woman and hear her story. One particular afternoon, the team broke up into small groups and Laura's group was given the opportunity to visit a woman named Rachel who had four children. One of the children went to Cornerstone Prep, Naomi's Village's school for the community. "The Naomi's Village children go to Cornerstone, but children who show potential in the community can go there as well," Laura said. "Rachel didn't speak much English so we had a translator with us. Ultimately, the goal for us was to show her love and also deliver a bunk bed, writing desk, chair, and solar lighting." When Laura and her team showed up, they realized that Rachel's elderly mother was living with them as well. "The family had just been given a concrete dwelling to live in," Laura said. "Prior to that, they had been sleeping in the goat pen right outside." With no man involved, Rachel would go do day labor all day and leave her elderly mother at home. 

"At one point, I asked Rachel if she knew Jesus," Laura said. "She said she didn't and our hearts just sunk. So, I took a deep breath and at the moment, I heard an audible voice that said 'bracelet, bracelet, bracelet!'" Laura looked down at her wrist and saw that she was wearing her gospel bead bracelet that they had made with the children from Cornerstone four days prior. "I asked if I could share the gospel with Rachel," Laura said. "The translator said I could." Laura asked Rachel if she had seen the bracelet before and she said her daughter had brought one home from school the week before. "I said to Rachel, 'I would love to share a beautiful story with you and the bracelet helps me do that,'" Laura said. "I walked through each bead and at the end, I just left it with the hope we have in Christ. I explained to her that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and trust in Him, we have this hope that surpasses our daily struggles, wants, and needs." Laura didn't necessarily do anything big, she just shared the story.  

Rachel started talking to the translator, smiled big, and said she wanted to accept Jesus. Laura and the team were overjoyed. Laura put the bracelet on Rachel's wrist and they all huddled together and prayed. "It was such a sweet moment and it all just started with showing up and meeting a physical need," Laura said. "We couldn't have planned that."  

Laura also got to reconnect with a little boy she had met on a previous trip. The Tylers had met him before and since that initial meeting, they had been in constant prayer for him. "God brought this boy into our hearts," Laura said. "He prompted our hearts to love this little boy. I can't even begin to explain the relationship established with him just through prayer." Laura felt such a burden and connection for this child, that she really had to talk herself down at first. "He's seen so many people who ultimately mean nothing to him," Laura said. "So, there was a chance that even with our prayers and thoughts of him for the past year, it wouldn't mean anything to him. Walking in, however, and seeing the bond he had with us that God had established through faithful prayer was such a blessing."  

The inspiring people Laura met made a completely lasting impact on her life. Her hope is that more of the Cottonwood Creek family will get to meet people just like the ones she met. Laura encourages everyone to just go. "Whether it's Kenya, Dominican Republic, or Rio Grande Valley, just go," Laura said. "It's easy for us to know God and know of Him here in America where we have so much privilege, freedom and opportunities. However, going elsewhere has opened my eyes wide to the power of God."  

Chiapas, Mexico Mission Trip Recap  

 

This summer, Cottonwood Creek teamed up with Mexico Ministries to assist with construction of a church in Chiapas, Mexico. Cottonwood Creek's team of 14 men had the incredible chance to minister through others through not only helping build the church, but also by interacting with the Mexican people.  

Originally, the team expected easy travel until a storm came through and shut down the entire airport. "As frustrating as it was for us, God used it to bring our group really close, relationship-wise," Missions Pastor Keith Tyler said. "It set us up for the rest of the trip and prepared our hearts for what we were about to experience."  

After 28 hours of waiting at the airport, the team finally caught a flight and headed to the Mayan Indian mountains. They soon arrived in the city of Chenalho 

"We came alongside Mexico Ministries to build this church in the middle of the mountains," Keith said. "It is only through love and support of our church and their giving towards missions that allowed this to happen."  

Much of the work on the church was already completed. Walls were constructed and a roof was already put on. The team's job was to lay foundation and build pews. "The joy of serving with these men bring the gospel to life," Keith said. "We were able to go and share Jesus and serve to those in need by providing a place of worship." The team experienced many obstacles such as delayed flights, rainy season, mud, and more but the joy they experienced in serving their Mayan Indian friends outweighed any difficulties they could have ever experienced.  

On the team's last say, the entire community joined together with the pastor of the church to dedicate the church building. "It was a powerful movement of God," Keith said. "Each of us prayed to the Lord, thanking Him for the blessings of providing this community a place of worship."  

Keith and the rest of his team are so thankful that the Chiapas community now has a place for preaching, discipleship, weddings, and a true beacon of light. "If it were not for the ministry of Pastor Carlos, Pastor Alex, and Mexico Ministries, this tremendous work wouldn't be possible," Keith said. "Thank you, Cottonwood, for your love and support and we look forward to seeing you in Chiapas next year." 

If you would like to get involved with serving alongside Cottonwood Creek, visit us online

 

Kenya's Grateful Hearts

Patti Locklear's Story of Meeting the Grateful Hearts of Kenya 

 

It's never too late to go on a mission trip. For Patti Locklear, this year's 2017 summer mission trip to Kenya was her very first mission trip. "I have always had a special place in my heart for kids," Patti said. "Every time I saw the Kenya trip, it tugged at my heart. So, my husband put down the deposit as my Christmas present!" From there, Patti's heart for children and especially the children of Kenya only continued to grow.  

A typical day on the Kenya mission trip was a very busy one. After breakfast, the team would leave the facility and have a morning time of ministry. They then did Vacation Bible School with the kids. "We had crafts, sang songs, and played with them on the playground," Patti said. "After that, we would go do ministry in the community, such as community outreach to the kids of Cornerstone Academy.In the evening, the team would go to the orphanage area and play in the courtyard with the children"After the children went to bed, we would have prayer with them," Patti said. "One of the little girls kept saying, 'Auntie, are you crying?!' It was just so touching and moving to pray over them." 

Patti was and still continues to be blown away by the impact that God continues to leave on the people of Kenya. However, she thinks that God has truly impacted her more. "I would say that their hearts are so grateful to the Lord," Patti said. "American's truly don't know what 'need' really is. I saw their daily lives and they were just so grateful all the time. 

This being her very first mission trip, Patti went with the expectation that God was going to do amazing work. However, she soon realized that when they arrived in Kenya, God was already at work there. "There were several salvations," Patti said. "I was not specifically involved in those, but I did show the gospel a lot."  

The place that impacted Patti the most was a refuge for abused and neglected children. Many children there would come from extremely abusive situations and there, Patti saw the great need the children have.   

"I remember one specific instance when I was sitting with a thirteen-year-old girl doing the bead bracelets with the salvation message," Patti said. "She asked me if she could sing in a song in Swahili to me." Patti could only make one word out of the song: Yahweh. "After she finished singing, I asked the girl what the song meant," Patti said. "She said, 'God hide me from my enemies'. I then started crying because I just thought to myself and wondered how many times has she had to sing that out to the Lord?"  

Patti prays for the children in Kenya constantly. She keeps Jeremiah 29:11 in her mind and prays it over the children. "God has a plan for their lives," Patti said. "It really does change your heart." Patti feels like there should be no hesitation when it comes to joining a mission trip. "Don't be afraid, just go!" Patti said. "A lot of people worried about our accommodations but don't be afraid. After being in Kenya, I really left a part of myself there. The people are so grateful towards us and also to God." Patti learned a lot about the Kenyans' dependence on the Lord. "In America, we really aren't always dependent on God," Patti said. "However, we absolutely should be." 

 

Final Blog From Kenya

Dear Friends and Family,

One of my favorite items to do on each trip is to Blog and share about our experiences. If you have been following us in Kenya, you might be wondering why you have not heard from me since Saturday night. Well, God threw us a curve ball and I spent 3 days in the Kijabe Hospital with one of our team members, Jeremy Callaway. He had Kidney Stones and man did he suffer. So, with no Internet from the hospital and not good way of communication, I could not write you. Jeremy is back to his old self and doing great. Thanks for those who prayed for us!

So, I will quickly catch you up...

Sunday - worship at Naomis Village with all the children!  Afternoon of rest, then Keith and Jeremy went to ER. We have some stories to tell you about being admitted to a third world hospital. We got the best care in the country - truly!!!  Amazing doctors and care. God was looking out for us!!

Monday - Safe House in the morning where McKinley lead worship and Dana taught the lesson. These courageous kids had so much fun playing games and playing with crafts. Afterwards we divided into 3 teams to go into 3 homes of children from Cornerstone. It was called Cornerstone Outreach. Cottonwood Creek raised money for this ministry opportunity where you purchased beds, mattress, bench, table and solar lighting to students. It was one of the most impactful times we experienced. Thank you Cottonwood for making this happen. Lives are changed forecer.

Tuesday - Safe House the morning again where we shared the Gospel in our teaching time and mark kids prayed to receive Jesus. It was heartbreaking to leave them and continue to know God is in control of their lives. We thank God for this opportunity to be at Safe House!  Afternoon was spent shopping in Kijabe and final "see you later" events as we packed for the trip home.

Wednesday - woke up early to get to airport, but stopped off at the Giraffe Sanctuary on the way!  So much fun. Look at pictures!!!  Got on plane and now in Dubai waiting to catch out 15 hour flight to see all of you.

His trip has been unforgettable. Thanks for all the prayer and support. We love you and cannot wait to see you at 9:50am in the morning!

Bless you!  So good!!!

On mission team.

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Naomi's Village Day 5

HUGE day filled with laughter, tears, joy and exhaustion.

 

Our team spent the first part of the morning talking about the cultural difference between the Kenyan and American way of living life, then reflected on Paul’s writings that tell us to win some (to Christ) we must become like them.  If we are ever going to relate to the culture and people in Kenya, we must learn from them, be like them and relate to them, then God can open up opportunities for the Gospel.  We practiced this all day long.  Thank you Lord for your faithfulness to your people today.

 

Morning games, crafts and soccer with the little ones!  3 hours of it!  We could not get enough of the laughter and smiles we got to experience during this time.  Face painting was the big hit, along with duck, duck, goose!  Loved the time of investing in their lives today.

 

Delicious lunch then we hiked 6 miles up 2000ft elevation to Kijabe – yes – it was a hike to remember!  Not only was it a difficult stretch for the team, but the sights were amazing!  We ended up at Mark and Liz Sisler home and they made us all kettle corn!  So good, then Bob Mendonsa got a birthday wish my getting drenched by water for a Naoimi’s Village tradition then sung to by the kids.  It was hilarious!

 

Bonfire was a fun dance party, filled with smores and worship, ending with the guys and girls dividing up for hang out time.  It was a long and amazing day to be with these kids. 

 

Worship in the morning then an afternoon of rest and preparing for the rest of the week.  We miss you family and thanks for the prayers!

 

 

OnMission Team

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