Antigua 2010-Returning home

We woke up early, enjoyed one last cup of coffee on our porch, walked down for a quick look at the beach before packing the last few things and waiting for the Vans to arrive. I am ready to talk to our kids and see them, but sad to leave this beautiful country. We made time to swing by the downtown vendors for a last few gifts to take home then headed to the airport to check in. After we checked in, Victor one of the elders at Villa Church took Larry and I for a few minutes to see the U.S. Air Force Base that is here in Antigua. We were only gone about 30 minutes, but it was nice to be with Victor for a few minutes. He is an amazing man with such a sweet spirit. He has impressed us both with his love for the Lord and the people here. We took a few pictures with him and he got us back to the airport in plenty of time to load! Our flight left at 2:00 PM, it is 94 degrees here. When we arrived in DFW at 11:55 PM, it was snowing and 30 degrees! HA! We actually were afraid we might not leave Atlanta as the weather was getting bad and they weren't sure we could land in Dallas if we left, but after a delay of a few minutes the pilot said we would be taking off. Though it was dark, we could sure see the snow coming down as we got closer to DFW. It was very good to be on the ground, safe and sound. The van from Hillcrest was there to pick us up! The roads was very slick until about Weatherford, then it cleared up. We got home around 3 AM. We are all exhausted but it has been a wonderful trip and we are blessed beyond words from the experience. The members at Villa stole our hearts and we are better people for having met them! Plans of the next trip are already being discussed and who knows, maybe we will be blessed once again to join the trip! We are very thankful for such a rich experience and it was so fun to travel to another country with my sweet husband. I would love to do more traveling with him!!!


Antigua 2010-Day Seven

Friday. We are all quite excited about this day. I think we are all anxious to see other parts of this Island and it will be fun to relax! Larry and I enjoyed our porch, coffee and conversation with some of our students, Justin and Kari before the van arrived. I don't think I have said much about the van and the driving in Antigua. To start out, they drive on the "wrong" side of the road! Ha...or at least as far as we are concerned! Then there doesn't really seem to be a speed limit. We didn't see any posted. The roads are very narrow. They are bumpy. They are crowded. And they ALL seem to like to drive fast. And they use their horns a lot! We were normally always in one van. A 15 passenger van. Nice van...just really crowded with anywhere between 17 and 19 people. Larry and Justin had the GREAT honor of their wives sitting in their laps! :) Otherwise, there were not enough seats! Did I mention it was humid and hot. In the 90's and humidity in the upper 80's. Nice and warm! So, we ALL loaded up in one van and off we went. First stop was the English Harbour. It was a beautiful spot! This side of the Island seems more lush and of course the English Harbour is quite an attraction so there were lots of shops and places to eat. We shopped and browsed around for about an hour. Larry found a bakery that had all sorts of amazing things...so he was quite entertained! He tried several types of meat pies, fried meat balls, sausage wrapped in homemade bread, etc. I settled for an Coconut Fried Pie...yummy!!! :) The prices in the shops on this side of the Island were quite a bit more expensive, but fun to look! It was suggested that we go up to incredible lookout spot called Shirley Heights. They had a restaurant there, so we all ate lunch and enjoyed the view! Here are a few of the MANY pictures I took while waiting for my food!

Then the next beautiful spot we headed to was Half Moon Bay, known for their incredible blue water and pink sand. We were not disappointed. We stayed here several hours, most of the students swam while dodging Jelly Fish! I got stung on the ankle, It could have been much worse, but still, quite uncomfortable! Here are some of my favorites:

We drove to Devil's Bridge, another beautiful spot, before returning to the Hotel to clean up for supper.
Bernard and his sweet wife, Denise brought us dinner from a local Chicken Spot that Bernard had been bragging about all week! He said it is his favorite place to get chicken, and we now know why! It was the best BBQ Chicken with fries and coleslaw. We all ate on our porch, even Bernard and Denise joined us, which was so fun! They are such a sweet couple and are expecting their first child! After supper, we met a large number of the church members at a local basketball court and the guys played basketball and the girls visited and watched after the little ones. It was one last time to be with our friends before we leave tomorrow. They are so fun and it was a beautiful night to be outside! We returned to our hotel and packed up. It has been an incredible week and we have been blessed beyond measure!



This year, Zach, Meg, Owen, Clay and Will joined us for Easter lunch and our annual Easter Egg hunt in the backyard. David, Ashley and Emma were in White Oak with David's parents. Here are a few pictures of our time with Zach and his family. It is always fun to hide eggs for the boys and this year they were ALL three really good at finding them. Owen kept telling me before Easter that I could hide his "higher" and that he would leave the ones low for Clay and Will! He was so sweet about it and did exactly what he said he would do! He would see the ones low and look at me as to say "I see it Honey, but I will leave it there for my brothers!" It was precious. We hunted eggs, had a yummy Easter lunch (thanks Meg for all the help!) then we gave the boys their Easter basket, this years basket theme was "Summer fun"! We bought them each a new beach towel and some new fun swim toys! They are very excited for summer to get here so they can go swimming!

I cannot get over how quickly our grandsons are growing! They just keep getting more and more fun! I love the picture of the three boys by the old bike...aren't they just the most handsome boys you have ever seen! We aren't a bit proud! :)

Last weekend, I had the sweet pleasure of driving over and spending the weekend with Emma and Ashley. David had a hunting trip planned so I got to go hang out with the girls. Thank you Larry for being so sweet and letting me go play! I took Emma's Easter Basket to her and as expected her very favorite thing was the grass! However, she did get her first plate/bowl/cup/fork & spoon set from Bud and Honey! She turned 7 months old on Saturday! Hard to believe! She was a doll the whole weekend. Ashley and I had made big plans to do lots of yard work as Ashley was really wanting to get a start on her flower beds in the backyard and freshen up the front ones as well along with just making her porch look more inviting! We could not have asked for Emma to have been any better! If she was awake, she was outside with us in her little "jumper" and was as happy as she could be! She loves the outdoors! She took great LONG naps and allowed Honey and Mom to get a lot of hard work done! We laughed that we had our own version of Curb Appeal! It was so much fun and her porch looks completely different!
The best part is we used a lot of things she already had and I was able to share some plants from my yard! Ashley has already posted the pictures, so here is the link! She shows lots of before and after...so you can truly appreciate how different it looks! We had so much fun digging in the dirt together! I love it that Ashley now loves to go to gardening places with me! Poor child, I drug her through many a flower shop/gardening center in her childhood and she was always so tolerable of the trips but I could tell was bored stiff! However, guess what, she loves them now and guess who she is taking with her now...yep...Emma!!! We had so much fun looking at all of the choices and figuring out just the perfect little plants and color choices for Ashley! I had so much fun, though Saturday night Ashley and I were hardly able to move because we were so stiff! But not too stiff to still have some much treasured reading time with sweet Emma. She loves to read books and of course that is one of my favorite things to do with the grandkids! I enjoyed all the snuggling time I got too! :) It was a good weekend. I also got to spend some MUCH needed time with my dear friend Pam. I drove to their house on Thursday and we did lots of talking! We had so much to catch up on, after all she is now a grandmother too, of a precious little boy named Emmett! We can hardly wait to meet him, but I did have the wonderful pleasure of seeing him on Skype! It was SO good to see Emily, his sweet Mommy and to meet Emmett. I of course are counting the days (hint hint Emily) till we can meet him in person! :) We are so blessed to have this family in our lives, they mean so much to us and we consider them family! I returned home Sunday night, glad to see my sweet husband waiting on the porch for me and feeling extremely blessed to have had such safe and good weekend!

Antigua 2010-Day Six

Thursday. Larry decided to get up extra early this morning and go see if he could do a bit of fly fishing in the ocean. John and Grady went along, so I thought it would be a perfect morning to get dressed early and enjoy writing in my journal and sipping on coffee while it was quiet...not! Ha. Like I said, our porch is the place to be! As much as I wanted the quiet time, it is fun to get to know the other students better. We visited till the boys returned...empty handed then everyone got ready for the day. Kari and I before we left the Hotel for the day! Today we will return to the school to do one last devo. It was hard to tell the kids goodbye. Ira pleaded with me, "Mama MaryKay, please don't leave!!" Ugh. He broke my heart! Such a sweet kid. All of our "men" did the devo this morning, each sharing in a favorite scripture and telling why, then Collin followed with a few songs...which is so fun because the students really love to sing! We were able to stay and visit about 30 minutes to share addresses, etc. Hopefully we can keep in touch! One last picture with Ira, my Antigua buddy!

We left the school, returned to the Hotel and changed into our work clothes. Today we are going to tackle a very overgrown lot next to the church building. It has a vacant house on it and the weeds are tall as me! It is quite an eyesore and after talking to the Elders last night after church, we thought this would be a great way to end our service projects! Kari took Emi and they went and bought some clothes for our little guys on the other side of the fence. They have been there at the fence each day, usually in the same clothes, or hardly any clothes and so we decided we would give the boys some new clothes and shoes. While they were gone, the rest of the group got to work! The tools available to us were pretty rustic, no weedeaters, etc. Weed wackers...or a big knife was the choice of tools. Here is a before and after picture of our labors: BEFORE:

AFTER: I really have to brag on the girls! They really rocked this project! I have NEVER seen such hard workers! Even the men admitted we really showed them up!!!

We ate another wonderful lunch, always lots of fresh fruit and veggies...straight from their gardens! Oh how delicious! Here is just a sampling of the food they laid out for us each day! Really, really AMAZING Christian Women!!!

After lunch, we went back to work and finished up. Then we went to the Hotel for a quick shower and change. The vans then took us downtown to some vendor type stores where we spent 1 hour shopping and looking before walking back to the church for our last day with the kids, again, hard to say goodbye. We treated them to Watermelon..though I am pretty sure it was as big a treat to all of us! So nice and cool! Emi was able to give the boys their new clothes, talked to the mother and even shared a couple of watermelons we had left over. After cleaning up our mess, we returned to the Hotel to freshen up for a Bible Study that the church has on Thursday evening. When we got back to the Hotel, some of the members had left us some fresh baked fish and veggies for supper. We set it up on the porch and let everyone come get some to eat! It was a nice treat not to have to fix supper after the day we had all put in!
We headed back to the church, where Justin taught the Bible study. These people put us to shame! They asked Justin to speak and told him he had a FULL hour to talk. When his hour was up, he asked them if they needed to go and they all said," No, keep talking brother!" Justin said he had never experienced that before! Afterwards we visited as we knew it would be our last time to see these members before we left Antigua. They are family. We have grown to love them so much. They have inspired us and strengthened us. We for sure are leaving this country better people for having the chance to get to know them!
Here is a picture of all who stayed to visit after Bible Class.

After saying our goodbyes, we drove back to the Hotel and had our devo and talked about the plans for the next day. We are taking tomorrow to sightsee, do some shopping, go to another beach, etc. It should be fun and I think everyone could really use a day of "rest". Though we will be busy, it will be a different pace. We had a really great devo...everyone has been so impressed with these people and have truly been touched by their faith.


Antigua 2010-Day Five

Wednesday. Another wonderful start to the morning...enjoying a cup of coffee on the porch with my sweet hubby! The view is beautiful and so peaceful. Every morning so far, we have seen several cruise ships coming to shore. They are beautiful ships, but we are seeing such a different side of Antigua, and though I would love to take a cruise, I prefer to see and experience what we have been blessed to be a part of so far. Nice start to another crazy busy day. Our bodies are all sore, we are working and sweating like crazy, but it has been an amazing trip thus far!
Our day for the most part is pretty much a repeat of yesterday. We started our day giving the devo at the school where my little friend, Ira goes. When our van pulled into the parking lot, there he was, standing right in the middle of the parking lot, waiting. As soon as I got off the van, he gave me a huge hug. My heart melted. He stuck by me the entire time. He is in the 8th grade and though I can tell some are making fun of him for "hanging out" with me, he doesn't seem to mind one bit! We talked until our devo time and then we stood together and worshiped God. We were allowed to stay just a bit and visit before their first class period. Then we waited about 45 minutes before we were able to spend their "open period" with them. They could pick to play board games, do a drama class, etc. I helped Kari in the drama class. It was fun to see them be silly! The rest of our day looked like yesterday...another WONDERFUL lunch at church, to the Hotel to pick up trash again, a quick shower and change of clothes and back to the church for the Youth Rally. As soon as we wrapped up the Youth Rally, we dashed back to the Hotel to fix our supper and then back to church for evening services and visiting time! We are blown away by the depth of their knowledge of the Bible, their love to study God's word and the way they make us feel so loved! They have taught us much!
I will finish with more pictures...of kids at the school, etc.


Antigua 2010-Day Four

Tuesday. We got ready for our day, eating our breakfast in the room and then moving to the porch for a cup of coffee while enjoying the view. This morning we were suppose to do a devo at a new school, but the van was late picking us up so we just visited with the children in between classes as they had already had their devo. Several of our girls, who are Elementary Ed Majors, stayed for a few hours to observe in some of the classes. During our visiting time, I met a young man named Ira. He stole my heart! He was such a sweet young man and we talked and shared about ourselves. They children are so open and want to learn about Texas, USA and are so curious as to why we have come. Here is my buddy, Ira. We went back to the church to get things ready for the Youth Rally and also to eat another amazing lunch. Really, these women know how to cook! After lunch, our group headed back to the Hotel to pick up trash in a lot that is between our Hotel and the coast. We had discovered the day before, though there is a beautiful beach very near our Hotel, you have to cross an area of land that has been totally trashed out. It is the saddest thing to see. We decided to spend a few hours today and tomorrow seeing if we can't make this area look a bit different! Kari and I ran to the grocery store for supplies that each room was needing, cookies for the Youth Rally and water. We are all drinking a ton of water! We could not believe how much trash was gathered in the first day, over 50 big black trash bags and tons of stuff that was too big for a trash bag! It is already looking better! I had a chance to visit with our maid at the Hotel. She was such a sweet young lady and very curious about us and why we were working in their country. I invited her to church and also invited her children to come to the Youth Rally. She was really very interested in why we were picking up all that trash. She works for the Hotel and sees that trash every day. She could not believe the difference!

We all cleaned up and headed back to the church for the Youth Rally. Our numbers are growing and it was a fun day of playing with the children. We sang, had a Bible Story, played games, jumped rope, had cookies and punch and visited and loved on these kids! They are so precious! One of our students, Emi, showed such compassion towards two little boys that lived behind the church but who were not allowed to attend our Rally. She would stand at the back fence and talk to these little boys, bringing them cookies and punch and even filling up their water bottles. They couldn't attend because they had chores...filling up water bottles for their mom. They lived in a tiny shack, no running water, 4 children and a mother. It was a heartbreaking story and yet, Emi, showed Christ to them in some amazing ways!

After the Youth Rally, the church van took us back to the Hotel. We went down to the beach near the Hotel. It was protected by two cliff and was so pristine! We enjoyed a beautiful time of sharing and singing though the waves crashing on the rocks about drowned out our singing! After our devo, Justin, Kari, Larry and I slipped away to a very nice restaurant that was right behind the Hotel. The students all cooked together and we felt it might be the only time for us to get away as couples! We had the best meal! It was such a quiet location and we had a lovely table outside on the patio. We all shared in several appetizers...lobster bisque, lobster coctail and then each of us had fish entrees. I had Lobster. I cannot describe how delicious it tasted! I love seafood! We enjoyed a wonderful evening with Justin and Kari and it was such a nice evening to relax and visit about the trip thus far. After dinner, back to the Hotel to hit the sack! We are all exhausted but it was a great day!


Antigua 2010-Day Three

Monday morning. A wonderful cup of coffee on the porch bright and early. Another beautiful morning. Saw several cruise ships headed for the dock which is only a few blocks from the church. We loaded up in the van and headed for our first of many wonderful experiences in the schools of Antigua. First Stop. Princess Margaret School. We waited by the front office while the students flooded the campus. Fun to see so many friendly faces.
This was a middle school age campus. We held a devo in their auditorium. That in itself is amazing. God is regularly talked about in the schools. They quote scripture in their classes, they pray, they sing songs...quite different than what happens in our country! We sang a few songs and Justin shared a few thoughts with them. We were all on the stage and they were PACKED into the auditorium. When Collin, our song leader of the group, got up to lead us in song, the girls all went crazy. Seems they thought he was a member of the Jonas Brother Band! Ha. So, when he started singing the girls all started screaming! It was so funny. The quickly joined in and started singing but it was a funny start to our devo! The students are well behaved and so sweet!
We left the school and drove to a nursing home to sing and visit with the residents. The condition of most of the residents was heartbreaking. I think it was a shock to see the condition of their facility. It was clean but very old buildings and it appeared that they were understaffed compared to what we are accustom to in our country. The residents were precious and so appreciative! Those that could, sang along with us and you could tell it was a big treat for them. It took our student a bit to start really interacting with the residents but before long, they were giving hugs and talking away! Two things I want to share. John Ferguson, one of our students, mention to Larry he had not worked with the elderly much and you could tell he was having a hard time knowing what to do. THEN, he saw two men sitting at a table playing domino's. John, found a chair, walked over and asked them if he could join them in their game...you should have seen those two men's faces light up! It was priceless!

The other sweet moment, was my encounter with one of the residents. I saw a man sitting alone on an old wooden bench, so I went over and sat down by him and started visiting with him. I explained where we were from and introduced myself as Mary Kay. He looked me right in the eye, shook my hand and said "My name is Auckland". My parents named me after the capital of New Zealand. Then he proceeded to say, "My full name is Auckland Knight, K.N.I.G.H.T". I just started laughing, and told him my full name was Mary Kay Knight! He looked up at me as if I was lying and I said, "No, really, my last name is K.N.I.G.H.T! It was priceless. He had the biggest smile. I called Larry over and introduced him to Larry Knight. We sat down and visited and Larry said "Auckland, it is very nice to meet you! Do you suppose we are cousins?" Auckland laughed and said "Well, if we are, it happened a long time ago!"! Below is a picture of us with our new friend, Auckland Knight.
Each day at noon, we ate our lunch at the church building. I cannot describe how amazing the lunches were each day. The women of the church, took turns fixing us lunch. They would fix TONS of food for us! We were completely overwhelmed with the love they showed us through their cooking, serving and tending to our needs! Each day, the food was fresh out of their gardens and all home cooked dishes! Amazing! After lunch, we went to the Hotel, changed into our painting clothes and headed back to Princess Margaret School. It is hard to imagine the condition of these schools. The school was built in 1955 and honestly looks like nothing has been done on the inside's of the classrooms. There will be a very old chalkboard at the front and dingy dirty walls. There are not bulletin boards, nothing. It certainly makes me keenly aware of how nice our schools are in Texas! However, the students are incredibly well behaved! The schools had asked us to paint two classrooms and one storage/office area. I think the condition of this room shocked us all. There were vulgarities written all over the walls. Below is a before and after picture. It felt so good to give these students a fresh "new" classroom. I would have loved to have been there when they returned to class the next morning. Our whole group worked extremely hard for a few hours then most of them left to go set up and hold our first Youth Rally at the church. Larry, John, Grady and myself stayed at the school and kept painting, along with one of the Villa members, Thomas, who has a painting business in Antigua. It was so hot, little air moving, humid and yet it was the most rewarding work ever! :)

I love this kind of work. Exhausting but so fun to see such amazing results! The group who held the Youth Rally came back in the Van to pick us up after they were finished and we were just putting the furniture back into the rooms. It was so cool to see the transformation, though I didn't get many pictures! We drove back to the Hotel and I have never enjoyed a shower as much as I did that night! Everyone ate in their own rooms so Larry and I went easy and fixed ourself a sandwich. After supper, Justin and Kari came down to our room for coffee and pie! Yummy. John and Grady joined us and we all sat in the room and laughed and talked about the funny moments of the trip thus far. It was the best medicine ever! Larry and I had returned that evening completely exhausted but by bedtime we were revived from the stories of the day!