TwoFer Crustless Quiche & Pasta Salad

I am SO excited to have our son home from college for Christmas break. With a full house, I wanted to have some homemade meals on hand, but didn’t want to spend a ton of time and energy in the kitchen with all of the other to-do’s on the list this time of year.

Inspired by a lack of time, I decided to make two very different dishes that have overlapping ingredients so I could reduce my work and shopping list.

These two recipes have similar ingredients, but different bases. With that, and switching out a few key ingredients, they have different tastes, textures, temperatures and mealtimes. So we’re getting a TwoFer… two recipes for one trip to the grocery store and one amount of time & effort. Yes!

TwoFer Crustless Quiche & Pasta Salad

Crustless Quiche

10                           eggs

1 1/2c                     milk

2c                           Taco Bell Ranch Monterey Jack shredded cheese

12oz                       sweet or white onion; chopped (I use frozen) OR fresh leeks; whites                                            sliced thin; do not use the green stems (freeze them for soup stock)

3-4                         slicing tomatoes; sliced thin (Roma, small beefsteak, etc)

Cooking spray

Pasta Salad

16 oz                     Fusilli (corkscrew), penne OR farfalle (bowtie) pasta

1/2c                      pine nuts

1 bunch                 green onions; chopped

2 pints                   grape OR cherry tomatoes; whole

1T                         grapeseed or vegetable oil

1lb                        fresh mozzarella; cubed

(Vinaigrette)

5T                         lemon juice

5T                         white Balsamic vinegar

4T                         olive oil

2T                         sugar or agave

1/2t                      salt

Both Dishes

3 cloves               garlic

2t                        dried or fresh basil

Salt & cracked pepper to taste

1                        orange pepper; diced

2t                       grapeseed or vegetable

1 bag                 fresh baby spinach; chopped

1 1/2c                bacon; cooked & crumbled (I buy mine from Costco)

16oz                  ham; sliced, butcher cut or “off the block” cut

Directions:

Use two bowls, one for each recipe.

Quiche Bowl:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix eggs, milk, cheese, 2t garlic, basil and salt & pepper.
  3. Saute onion in 1t oil and slowly add to bowl to temper the egg mixture.
  4. Saute orange pepper in 1t oil and add half of it to quiche.
  5. Add half of the spinach, bacon and ham and blend well.
  6. Pour into greased 10×10” casserole dish.
  7. Slice tomatoes thin and place on top. Slightly press tomatoes into the quiche so the tomatoes stay soft.
  8. Bake for 25-30 min until cooked through.

Pasta Bowl:

  1. Cook pasta al dente (9-11min) in salted and oiled water (about 1T of vegetable oil).
  2. While pasta is cooking, make the vinaigrette by combining all ingredients in a container with lid and shake well.
  3. Drain pasta and pour into bowl and add vinaigrette while pasta is hot; mix well. Vinaigrette will absorb into the pasta as it cools.
  4. Add 1t garlic, basil, salt & pepper. Mix well.
  5. Add half of the orange pepper, spinach, bacon and ham.
  6. Add pine nuts and green onions.
  7. Saute grape tomatoes in oil until they blister and begin to pop. This greatly increases their flavor. Do not overcook. They should keep their shape as in the photo below.
  8. IMG_E6709[1]
  9. Add tomatoes to pasta bowl and gently toss.
  10. Add mozzarella and gently toss.
  11. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  12. Stir before serving.

** You can switch out ingredients based on preference, food allergies and what you have on hand.

Quiche freezes well.

 

 

 

Lessons from Nana…the elevator

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Lessons from Nana…
Nana had a doctor’s appointment today. That’s not unusual, except for the fact of where it was located – on the second floor of a building with only elevator access. Seriously, only personnel are allowed to use the stairs. It makes no sense to me and isn’t a big deal to most people. But, it’s a BIG deal to me.

You see, I have an irrational fear of elevators. I’ve struggled with this since I was 4 years old.
While some people can’t remember back that far, I remember “the incident” that left me traumatized like it was yesterday.

My 4 yr old preschool class was being escorted by a teenage volunteer from one floor of the building to the next. Okay, fine. But it’s what he did once we were on the elevator that has scarred me for life.

He wildly began to push ALL of the buttons! The elevator jumped and jolted. The lights went out. The alarm rang. The doors opened between floors. All of this was happening to a group of preschoolers who can’t even tie their shoes.

We were crying. We were petrified. He laughed at us.

Eventually, he said to us as the doors opened on the correct floor, “Do you want to get off?” We all quivered and cried our response, “Yes!” He said, “No!” And did it all over again. I was never the same after that.

What this guy didn’t know (or care given his reckless behavior) were two things:
1. I wrestle with high anxiety and have my entire life. It’s a genetic thing going back generations.
2. At that time, I lived in a home with a stepfather who terrified me so my anxiety was fever-pitch level!! He was a scary man who utterly robbed me of my childhood. He married my mom (who she thought was her hero, but turned out to be her villian) when I was 4 yrs old. Life went downhill after that. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I had an unhealthy fear of authority figures, as well as major daddy issues, for a very long time and a LOT of forgiveness to work out.

I’ve avoided elevators over the decades to a ridiculous extent. I’ve seen the back hallways of plenty of buildings and been escorted by security and staff hundreds of times over my life taking stairs not meant for the public.
I’ve been embarrassed to ask staff ride WITH me on elevators when stairs were impossible for security reasons.
But oh how many stairs I’ve climbed.

Once I climbed 32 flights of stairs for an entire weekend to avoid an elevator ride to the 16th floor hotel room.

I will climb 12-14 flights no problem if it means I can take the typically forgotten, smelly, dingy stairs.

So when my MIL moved down here to live out her years, one thought I had was, “As her health declines, I’m going to have to take elevators so as to accompany her to appointments.”

And here we are. Her oncologist is on the 7th floor. Her surgery was on the 2nd floor. Her primary doctor is on the 2nd floor. Her orthopedist is on the 2nd floor. Her other oncologist is on the 3rd floor. Her endocrinologist is on the 2nd floor. Her neurologist is on the 2nd floor. I know this because those elevators are etched in my mind as often stairs aren’t available.

When I must use an elevator, if it even remotely feels off, doors slow to close, etc. I’m out. My wonderful husband is used to this. He’s trucked many stairs with me and doesn’t say a word when staff tries to point us to back stairwells with odd looks on their faces like “WHY???”

When visiting a friend in the hospital recently, I traversed 5 different sets of staircases, several flights each – all with a dead end. I had to ask the front desk staff to escort me to a stairwell that was blocked off, only to find it led me to the wrong part of the building. Ug.

Today, her appointment was in a building with no stair access. Let me rephrase that…no public stair access. The last time we were here, a maintenance man happened to be in the lobby and I asked him about stairs. He was a retired firefighter and with both of his credentials I asked him to ride up with me, stopping short of wanting to hide behind him. The amazing man actually waited for our appointment and got permission to walk me down the staff-only stairs. However, today I was on my own.

I woke up with palms sweating and heart racing – over the thought of ONE lousy flight on an elevator. I HATE this about myself.

But here’s where Nana’s lesson enters. She’s relying on me. She can’t go to these appointments by herself.
In addition to the evil angiosarcoma eating her body alive at an alarming rate, her Alzheimer’s is getting worse. Though she can easily carry on on a conversation, she cannot tell the check-in receptionist any personal data past her birthday.

With each question, she looks at me in total fear. I HAVE to be there to be her voice; to advocate for her; to ask the questions; discuss options; to receive take-home instructions; and be a calming presence for her in these difficult conversations.

Why is this important to me? Because I love her. We are family. I call her Naomi and myself Ruth.

Love is a choice. My husband says often that every day he chooses love. We all choose love.

The hard part is when loving pushes us past what we can endure. It forces us beyond our limits. It makes us face our fears. It takes the control away from us and we don’t like that.

For me, I feel more brave observing, with my own eyes, the devastating effects of her cancer than to step one foot on the elevator with Nana and her walker.

However, something happens when she and I are waiting for the steel doors to open. I’m no superwoman. I don’t become less afraid and do pray HARD the entire 15 second ride that feels like 15 hours. But choosing LOVE overrides the fear. Focusing on being there for HER makes me focus less on this irrational, trauma-driven fear.

This Christmas, what is LOVE asking you to do? See people you’d rather not? Go places you don’t want to be? Spend time doing things you’d rather not do?

I encourage you to LEAN into the discomfort, the awkward, and even the ridiculousness of what’s happening (as long as it doesn’t hurt yourself or others) and let love’s voice be louder.

Let LOVE be louder than who’s right…or wrong. Let LOVE be stronger than our own agendas, preferences and personalities. Let LOVE be our speech, our thoughts, and our actions. Let LOVE be how we make people feel.

LOVE keeps everything in perspective. It is the voice of reason. It is the WHY behind what we do. Afterall, as believers we live for God and God is love, 1 John 4:8.

And when LOVE comes first, the fears in our lives become less. And that’s a win for everyone. “Perfect love drives out fear,” 1 John 4:18.

And when you can’t…LOVE can. “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres,” 1 Corinthians 13:7.

You never know what can happen in a life driven by selfless love. It drove Jesus to a cross.

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” These two Scriptures cover everyone. So yeah, we should love everyone.

LOVE takes us on a journey we don’t always feel prepared for. It requires more of us than we want to give. It asks too much of us. But LOVE is so worth it, as are the people with whom we share it.

The crazy thing about LOVE is, the more we give into it, the more we get out of it. I pray you get the MOST out of this Christmas. And, enjoy the ride. 

College Survival Kit

It’s that time of year! You know it’s college season when every twin XL memory foam topper in the city & on Amazon is sold out, lol.

I wanted to put together a send-off gift that would be both functional and fun so I scoured the Internet for ideas. Some were very clever but not functional. Others were incredibly functional but not personal. So I started from scratch. Here’s the end result! Borrowing the packing bubble idea from Pinterest, the rest of the ideas came from endlessly wandering around WalMart anticipating what would make the transition to college a little easier. 🙂 It was a lot of fun to make the labels with a personal software program.

The black gift bag symbolizes a chalkboard and I used a white chalk marker for the verbiage. The gift bag’s name tag and ribbons tying the tag to the bag are in the school’s colors for a personal touch.

The school inception gift – bags within the bag! 😉

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On the go or studying inside – a high protein snack kit with chicken salad & crackers and a water bottle

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Get well soon – A can of chicken noodle soup; a bottle of hand sanitizer; a pack of tissues and an Echinacea tea bag

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Celebrate the good stuff! – A single-serving cake mix packet; microwavable mug; spoon, party blower and confetti

Celebrate the good stuff! – I photocopied the box of cake mix

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Running late – A packet of instant Starbucks iced coffee & a pack of breath mints.

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Stressed Out – packing bubbles to pop

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Just because 😉 – a bag of mixed candy

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Stay Safe! – An Uber gift card to jet if needed

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Mistakes are okay – An eraser with a personalized rice crispy treat

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Have fun!!!! – A frisbee and a deck of cards

 

Dragonfly Jars

8.5 x 11 miscellaneous VERTICAL - Page 149It’s Christmas in July! Last December, I found these beautiful, inexpensive acrylic dragonfly ornaments at WalMart. From the moment I saw them, I knew they were perfect for our back porch…in the summer. So I bought and stashed them for months.

Then I found these gorgeous blue glass canning jars in the canning section of our local grocery store. Again, a super economical find!

These dragonfly jars fare SO easy to assemble…

Items Needed:

  • Glass canning jars (a.k.a. Mason jars)
  • Acrylic ornaments
  • Scissors
  • Glue dots
  • Super Glue
  • Votive holder, candles, flowers, pebbles, etc. to fill the jars

Directions:

  1. Cut the strings off the ornaments.
  2. Play with how you want the ornament to sit on the glass jar.
  3. Once you have an idea of how to affix the ornament, place two glue dots on it; one on the top half and one on the tail. Make sure both glue dots will rest directly on the glass jar.
  4. Press the ornament on the glass and hold it for a few seconds while the glue dots adhere.
  5. Using Super Glue, use a drop or two between the rim of the glass and the ornament so it runs down between the two fora secure seal.
  6. Fill the jars with whatever you’d like!

(Serving board is from Home Goods.)

Culinary Quest #11 Fresh Corn & Basil Salad

Welcome to one of my very favorite salads! It’s refreshing, filling and healthy – the trifecta for side dishes or as an entree.  Before reaching for the typical potato salad, cole slaw, etc. which are high in fat and, well, boring, give this taste of summer a try!

It all started with extra corn I had on hand and needed a side dish for dinner (I way over-estimated the number of ears I bought). So I gathered other items we had on hand and experimented to see what cooked up.

This salad was love at first bite!! The combination of sweet corn, savory basil, buttery avocado, and bitey pickled red onion – this is quintessential summer flavor with beautiful colors and textures.

Ingredients:

5 ears of fresh corn; steamed or roasted, cooled and cut off the cobs (NOT canned corn)

1 cup pickled red onion; chopped (This is my favorite pickled red onion recipe, but should be made at least one day before for full flavor, thanks Brenda for such a delicious recipe!) *NOTE  If you don’t have time to pickle the red onion, use fresh red onion finely diced.

3 medium-sized fresh tomatoes; diced

2 cups fresh basil; measured before chopping

1 cucumber; diced

1 avocado; diced

1 cup mozzarella; diced (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:

4T white balsamic vinegar

2T olive oil

1/2t-3/4t salt to taste

1/2t black pepper

1/2t granular sugar (I use raw sugar)

2 cloves fresh garlic; minced

Directions:

Add all prepared ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Add all dressing ingredients into a seperate bowl. Whisk together and immediately pour over the rest of the ingredients in the bowl.

Gently mix everything together. Store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Stir again before serving.

* This recipe can be served immediately and does not need to set up for full flavor. It will keep for 1 day in the fridge, but it’s best served the day of. If you need to make it ahead of time, swap regular tomatoes for grape/cherry tomatoes to keep the tomato juice from producing too much liquid, and hold off adding the avocado until ready to serve. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Seeing God’s blessing with fresh eyes: Guyana Part 2

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Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow…(Psalm 146: 5-9)

We’ve had the honor and privilege of serving folks in multiple countries in many capacities with several non-profits over the years. However, our recent mission to Guyana’s jungle and remote areas brought a new task for Bruce and me.

It was a joy to fit men and women with reading glasses! Such a small token can change a life. I know because I’ve worn glasses for most of my adulthood. Not only do glasses help make words easier to see, but no more eye strain means no more chronic headaches. Hallelujah! No squinting. More reading!

I love how Psalm 146 describes the mercy and compassion of God our Father. Yes, he is focused our salvation and eternal destination, but he also cares about the here and now. The Bible is full of ways he offers tangible help to meet people’s needs.

We’ve all been the recipient of his gracious heart. The farmer gives thanks for rain. The sailor gives thanks for wind. We give thanks for medicine, help with a broken car on the side of the road, and neighbors who offer to help chainsaw huge branches that fall in the storm (Thanks, Jesse!!). All of us receive blessings every single day from our Creator as said beautifully by the anonymous author of Lamentations.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

It’s always exciting to wake up on mission and see what the day will bring. Fitting folks with reading glasses was a tangible way to help better the lives of others. We enjoyed great conversation with them, helping improve their reading vision, and serving them in this personal way in the name of our Lord.

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There’s also a physical exchange that was quite meaningful. The exchange of glasses hand-to-hand; helping gently fit them on their faces; the eye-to-eye contact when asking how they well they worked for them; and cleaning the lenses & straightening the arms of the glasses for them once their perfect pair were found was personal and sweet. It felt intentional. Care-filled. Love-driven. One person at a time. One pair of glasses at a time. It was beautiful.

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The process is remarkably easy. Start with a 1.0 lens and ask them if it makes it easier to read. If it’s too strong, then they don’t need glasses. If it’s not strong enough, keep going up until we find their perfect number. Then they can pick out the frames they like and that’s all there is to it! They leave with a new pair of reading glasses free of charge.

ICA buys the glasses from dollar stores so they’re an affordable, helpful way to bless someone in need. I have no idea how many pairs of reading glasses we gave out on this mission, but a few folks’ smiles stay with me.

One woman only had sight in one eye and that eye was strained. Keeping her only seeing eye is imperative to her quality of life and independence. She owned a pair of glasses, but they were the old, were the wrong strength and were pretty much useless. She was THRILLED to have a new, correct pair. Her smile said it all!

One man, in his late 40’s, never spoke a word. Bruce and I helped him together as we tried pair after pair. We knew we found the perfect ones for him when he did one thing – he gave two thumbs up, way up! His enthusiasm was contagious.

Another man showed up hours early because he was going to be at work when we opened the reading glasses clinic. We were more than happy to fit him with new specs, just in time for his shift. Yay!

Missions is God’s time, not ours. It’s not volunteer tourism – though that in itself is a great thing. Our daughter volunteered in Costa Rica to rehabilitate injured animals for eight weeks. Amazing work!!! We are huge fans!!

Mission work for God is surrendering oneself to the cause of Christ however needed; easy or hard, in our comfort zone or way outside of it, it’s all good. Even a simple conversation can be life-changing, both for us and those we serve. That’s a different blog post. 😉

There is nothing more rewarding than to be a vessel to help heal hearts while meeting tangible needs. This assignment was to give away as many reading glasses as possible. I loved every minute of it and hope to do it again and again.

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One of my favorite quotes is from Schoolhouse Rocks, “Knowledge is power!” The more people can easily read, the more information they will have that can change their lives and others’ in countless ways. This was one of those tasks that you walk away from knowing it will have a lasting effect and that feels GREAT!!!

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Below are photos of some of the recipients. I never grew tired of seeing people walk in with curiosity and leave with new reading glasses and big smiles. We can’t wait to do it again! See below how you can get involved.

Wow! These folks are rockin’ their new specs!!! 🙂

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If you’re inspired to help, there are two easy ways. You can donate to ICA as they continue to ship reading glasses, clothes, shoes, Christian books and cds, and a non-denominational bible study to Guyana on a regular basis. The Guyanese team with this ministry directly receives it, no middle man. They also organize food distribution to those in need all over the country of Guyana. Everything given away is a gift of the ministry with no cost to the recipients.

Another way to help is to choose International Celebration Association as a charity that receives a portion of your Amazon orders. There is no cost to you as Amazon donates a portion of your order. Simply to go AmazonSmile to find out more.

(Disclosure: Bruce and I are volunteers with this ministry and do not receive any compensation of any kind for our time or service. We serve in a volunteer role and do not work in any official capacity for this non-profit.)

 

 

 

 

Tyrique: Guyana Part 1

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We were serving a village deep in the jungle. It was our fourth mission to Guyana and Bruce and I were thrilled to back. However, this was our first time in the jungle. We came by ourselves from America, representing this ministry, and partnered with three of the ministry’s Guyanese team for this mission.

We were guests in a small, wooden, hand-built church where we worked and slept. It was nestled between the dirt road before us, the river they call “black water” behind us, and the warm spring sun above us.

It had been a couple of hours since we climbed out from under the mosquito net and began another day in the “interior” (locally known as the jungle).

Our team lead, Jai, was cooking lunch while we fitted folks for reading glasses as part of our ministry when a man with a long, desperate face walked into the church through the back doors propped open for ventilation. His eyes were swollen and glassy. His clothes disheveled. His countenance down and body utterly depleted.

We will call him Tyrique for privacy. He came for prayer.

The service we planned to hold did not start for several hours, but his body raged with malaria and spiked a high fever, nausea and joints screaming in pain.

Bruce, Wayne and I gathered around his body slumped on the wooden bench, one arm slung over the back holding him up. I stood next to him, and for a moment we caught eyes. His eyes were bloodshot and tired. As he wearily looked up at me, they pierced my soul and told me he wasn’t only struggling with malaria.

Bruce gently placed his hand on Tyrique’s back. Wayne clasped his hands together in reverence, and I rested my hand on Bruce’s back, agreeing in prayer.

The prayer was simple and to the point. We asked God to heal his body and for relief from the symptoms of the illness.

Tyrique softly muttered, thank you, and slowed peeled himself off the bench. A young guy, he walked hunched over in pain and weakness like an old man. Slowly, he shuffled through the doors and down the steps of the little church built on stilts.

He disappeared into the bright sunlight, and I left him in the Lord’s hands and went back to the people waiting for reading glasses.

Hours later, our evening service began. Music played and I could feel the thin boards beneath me rumble with vibrations of enthusiastic kids and adults singing to the worship.

I was alone at the back of the church photographing the service because one of my primary assignments of going on this mission was to photograph and videography the jungle part of this ministry.

Behind me in the dark night air, I heard a horrific screeching howl and chills ran down my spine. I thought it was a child. I quickly turned around to see one of the feral dogs who had been sitting on the steps of the church being attacked by a much larger feral dog. It was awful. Bruce ran past me and chased them off. My heart raced as they reminded me, I was in their element; a guest of the jungle.

Focusing back on the task at hand, photography, I caught a glimpse of someone on the back row through my lens. I lowered the camera and took a closer look.

It was Tyrique!

He wore the same dirty white undershirt and black jeans. His dreads were wrapped in black cloth. Something about him was different, but I couldn’t figure it out. He was standing for one thing. He clapped his hands to the beat of the worship music as his body swayed back and forth.

I thought to myself, “Wow! He looks totally different from this afternoon.”

His body had strength again. He participated in the worship. His face was no longer drawn and depressed.

And just like that, my job as photographer turned to speaker as Jai opened in prayer and I stepped up to the mic to give my testimony. I’ve had the privilege of sharing my story all over the world. Each time, God gives me the pieces of it to share for that particular audience. This night was no different.

Before speaking, I always pray that God will put his words in my mouth for that moment. Indeed, He did. God pulled out parts of my story that were right for these folks. As I spoke, I gazed into the faces looking back at me. No one even blinked. They sat silent, captured in the moment. I knew God was doing something.

I caught eyes with Tyrique more than once. His body leaned to the left, so he had an unobstructed view from the person sitting in front of him. He stared at me the entire time I spoke. This time his eyes gave a different message. They looked like my dry plants at home in that, when I remember to water them, their dehydrated soil soaks up the water faster than I can pour it.

His eyes absorbed every word. I knew for a fact God was doing something in Tyrique’s heart.

The service continued and then we concluded and said warm goodnights to everyone and the little church on stilts was once again quiet.

Bruce and I pulled out our air mattress and mosquito net while the Guyanese team hung their hammocks for another day’s job done.

The next morning, while packing up to leave for another village, Tyrique came back. He told the team that the day before, when he came for prayer, he was completely healed! He said that on his way home after praying with us his fever broke and malaria symptoms simply vanished.

He. Was. Healed.

God’s healing he experienced was why he came back for the service that evening. And what happened at the service was why he came back the next day.

Turns out, Tyrique is a drug dealer, and at the end of the service he prayed to accept Christ.

He came back the next day for counseling and sat with Jai, Bruce and Wayne for a while.

He has amazing potential for change and we are thrilled to know a local pastor will follow up with him for discipleship.

God surely had his hand on Tyrique’s heart. He was calling Tyrique and he answered the call.

Just think, if Tyrique had never caught malaria, he would have never wandered into this church for prayer which led to him accepting Christ as his Savior. It’s all about perspective.

This was the first time this ministry has witnessed a healing in its 12 years.

His miracle was water to my thirsty soul. In the excitement of it all, I’m glad I didn’t know what was coming next…

Stay tuned for more posts about our Guyana mission.

If you’d like to know more about the ministry, check out InternationalCelebration.org.