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“I castration pig.”

May 30, 2012

Sunday afternoon we finally arrived at the ranch. It was great to hear we would be in the old dorms, the ones with the hammocks on the porch and the view of the cross in front of the mountains. After unpacking and fueling up with lunch, our beloved Marta, the HOI team leader, promised us a special treat, and we loaded up the Range Rovers again and headed to find a waterfall.

Not a bad view from the dorms.

Having just read the ranch rules we were reminded that there was absolutely no swimming in the waterfall. Yet when we arrived Marta was the first to jump in and start splashing around, encouraging others to join. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to cool off, we all slowly started easing our way into the icy cold mountain water in our clothes. Immediately upon entering you could feel the immense power of the rushing water flowing down and over the rocks. If you got directly downstream of where the water cascaded over the highest drop, it would sweep you off your feet and down the river. It was thrilling to feel that much power surrounding you, and an absolutely beautiful reminder of God’s great creation. Everyone climbed around the surrounding rocks, swam and waded in the water, and just enjoyed cooling off. It was a highpoint to everyone’s day.

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When we returned to the ranch, the two vets who had traveled with us were joining another group of 13 others who had already served a week. Apparently Marta had decided she was spending the week with them, so she could learn how to castrate bulls.  She had studied agriculture and wanted some practice with the animals. Every time I have been to HOI before, Marta has been my team leader, so the thought of not having her made me sad. No one else could be as great as Marta, who affectionately calls us all her babies, and has several other “Marti-isms” that make us laugh and fall in love with her even more. Her English is pretty good, which is why she serves so well as a translator, but sometimes her phrases come out with her own special language and charm. She told us about wanting to go with the vets this week for practice, and proudly proclaimed, “I castration pig!”

Between our SUMC group and the vets, we decided it was time for a little friendly competition with a round of volleyball. Winners get Marta for the week. Yet as we started to play, not only did we not break up into “us” vs. “them,” we mixed up our groups on each team, and even added a few of the locals from the ranch who wanted to play. Throughout the game, walls began to be broken down. The different groups started learning each other’s names and strengths and personalities. No matter what your skill level (since my volleyball skills are about a 0), everyone was supportive and encouraging and cheered each other on. Those who weren’t playing spent time in fellowship with one another, and Ken and a vet student named Rhett shared their faith stories back and forth. After several games of play, we gathered for dinner, and then both groups joined together for an evening devotional.

Our original plan was to gather as our own SUMC group each night to share time as a team, decompress from the day, and allow each person to lead a devotional. It was my planned night, but just like the best laid plans, something else seemed to feel more appropriate. As dinner was finishing up, the group leader from the other team invited us to join them. Having just spent the afternoon bonding at the waterfall and building a sense of community over a simple game of volleyball, it only felt right to join in their evening prayer time. Everyone shared their favorite moments from the day, and the majority talked about the game, how it had brought us together, once strangers, now joined together, breaking down barriers and opening new doors. It was an evening for building relationships, expanding our understanding of the body of Christ, and knowing that even more love and community was soon to be found.

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