Category Archives: Joel

A Trail of Tears in Puerto Rico


I have been on the island of Puerto Rico for two and half weeks.  It is now almost 50 days after hurricane Maria.  I am with a team of people distributing water filters from the resulting collaboration of two organizations: Happy Sonship and Impact Nations.  During my time here I have witnessed the tears of men and women on several different occasions. Let me tell you about a few of them here.

The first incident of overwhelming expression was at a house our team could not fathom people living there but indeed the owners of this destroyed home were staying just next door.  When we first saw this house it was obvious the roof had been removed because the sunlight shown clearly into the rooms that could be seen through the windows.  You could also clearly see the clothes still hung in the closet from the street.


The multi-generational family had gathered and was sitting on the roofless front porch together.  The matriarch of the family sat centered amongst them and I watched the scene unfold as I was seated in the back of our rented van.  It was someone else’s turn this stop to explain in Spanish how the filter worked and leave it as a gift to the family and if they didn’t mind, to pray for them.

My team did what we had done so often and in addition got a tour of the remains of the home.  After everything was completed one of our staff felt led to donate some additional funds as a gift to this family.  The matriarch was seated again at this time with her family around her and our work was done and our van slowly began to pull away in to the narrow street and as we did, the seated woman lost her composure and broke down into sobs covering her face as her grandchildren all leapt up with arms of comfort around her as she freely cried.

This was my first encounter with tears here.

The second was my own.  We were in an area where the water had flooded a valley and entire homes with all their content had been destroyed.  No one could be residing here and indeed they weren’t but we found them with family a little further up the road.  A young woman painted the insides of a vacant immaculate home leaving us curious.  We stopped.

Two families were within, the family purchasing the home who did not have theirs destroyed and their siblings family and their kids who did have their home destroyed but were helping their siblings prepare to move into their new house.

I had a conversation standing directly across from a woman who looks very similar to me in age and composure.  She was looking the direction of her old home downhill on the road and she said with a look of remaining disbelief, “I lost everything, my clothes, my bed, my kitchen, my pictures, my car,… everything.”  I found a lump in my throat as I beheld her face reliving the reality of her current situation.

We proceeded to give both family’s filters and I was the one who felt led to give a little something extra to both these family’s thanks to the happy sonship’s generosity.  I explained to the sister who was painting that she was our first sign of hope we had seen.  Someone preparing a home, making things new, moving forward.  And to the other who had lost everything, I couldn’t make it through my sentence.  That a little money could never replace what she had lost but that my heartfelt for what she was going through.  At least that’s what I meant to say.  My tears were contagious and we quickly transitioned into praying for the family before making our departure.

That was the second of four.

The last two experiences of tears I will share with you here were both from men.  My husband and I were invited to share a bit of our story of how we met and being missionaries to a gathering of young students at a private Christian school on the island.  Their entire building had been destroyed and a church had let them take over their entire facility to ensure the education year was not lost.

My husband and I were taking turns back and forth sharing our sides of our story leading up to when we would meet each other in Mexico.  As my husband relived the experience of taking the risk of pursuing me and what God had told him during that time and how faithful God had been in this area of his life he could not contain it anymore and to the sighs of every teenage girl in the audience his tears fell as his words were hindered.  A second attempt was made to continue.  No success.  More audience sighs and a united silence as my husband stood before these people basking in the goodness of God and not contain his emotions.  We cried with him.  And the storytelling continued.


Lastly, we visited a man who had lost nothing during hurricane Maria.  He and his wife are in their seventies and have been pastoring faithfully in a little community for over thirty years.  In this remote corner of the island in this large busy world, this man plays guitar and sings before the lord.  He writes his own songs and they often have to do with Jesus.  He was sharing some of these songs for us and playing them on his guitar.

His second song was about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane willingly choosing to suffer upon the cross for our sakes when the notes coming off of the guitar strings continued to float into the air but the words could not make it out of his mouth.  “Pardon me, pardon me,” his voice cracked out in Spanish while he closed his eyes trying to contain the emotion within.  His precious song resumed again and there we were with him, his heart laid bare before us.


There have been many more tears I have witnessed since being here on this island but here I have shared with you just four.  May all of us find the courage to live with our hearts laid bare and care enough about those around us to find others where their words get choked up and share with them in the silence that follows.

We are not all so different from one another.  Let us live with the awareness to still care.  To love others sometimes involves pain, but do not be afraid to open up again rather than shut down to avoid it.  We sometimes try to offer people answers and fix their problems but sometimes there aren’t answers or solutions to be offered and our presence is all we have to give; to sit with them in their pain or loss and offer our love.

Before Joel and I left to come to Puerto Rico on this trip I wrote that our hearts would be broken.  When our hearts get broken, it simply makes room for them to grow bigger.  Do not fear heartbreak.  Do not live life numb.  Don’t give up hope for tomorrow. God is worthy of our trust in today.

Thank you so much for the prayers and financial support that has made our trip to Puerto Rico possible.  We have felt the power of the Holy Spirit, felt the overwhelming compassion of the Father towards this island, and felt the nearness of Jesus to the people who are suffering here.  We continue to look to Him for our direction and leading.  Thank you and God Bless.

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Joel’s Final Steps on His Appalachian Trail Hike

This is Heather here proudly sharing the post of my husband’s last hiking video from this years AT hike.  You can view the tearful video between him, his peeps, and the beauty surrounding them on the link below!  Thanks for tracking with us and sharing in our joy!

My husband’s AT trail update

 

For those of you not on facebook or not linked to my account:

A congratulations to my husband Joel who is not done with the Appalachian Trail, but just scaled Mt Washington in New Hampshire on his 120th day on the trail! He is on the hardest part of the trail past the 1,850 mile marker with less than 350 miles left to go and many mountains in between.

He’s got some awesome photos coming in you can check out on his Instagram account whether you Instagram or not by clicking on his photo links to the right. Don’t forget to scroll to the right or left because he puts up multiple photos at once. Happy viewing! So proud of you honey!

 

What! Your Walking 2,000 Miles?

“Over 2,000 miles,” Joel would add. 

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SUBSCRIBE TO VLOG

That’s right, Joel and I are making the preparations as we speak to embark on the trek of a lifetime.  And we’d love for you to come along and join us!  Joel will be vlogging our trek from his new YouTube channel you can subscribe to here: Joel Wanders.  If you want a preview of what vlogging the AT looks like you can check out RedBeard, Jacob Downing, or the married couple Hitched Hike as they make their way through the entire trail.

SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG

I also recently became a part a blogging community whose platform was recently called “Appalachian Trials” but has since just launched its new website called The Trek.  I am a part of the class of 2017 writers for next year’s hike.  Yes, people are already blogging about their upcoming hike next year, including me.  You can check out my first post HERE and my second one HERE.  If you want to subscribe to my blogging posts you can do that HERE.

We hope to keep this website updated with the progress of both.

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Appalachian Trail

For fact nerds like me here’s a little break down of the AT straight from Wiki:

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine.[1] The trail is about 2,200 miles (3,500 km)[a] long, though the precise length changes over time as parts are modified or rerouted. The trail passes through 14 states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

The Appalachian Trail was completed in 1937 after more than a decade of work, although improvements and changes continue. It is maintained by 31 trail clubs and multiple partnerships,[2] and managed by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy.[3][4] The majority of the trail is in forest or wild lands, although some portions traverse towns, roads and farms. The trail conservancy claims that the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only trail in the world.[5]

At least 2 million people are said to do at least one day-hike on the trail each year.[6] Thru-hikers attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season — more than 2,700 people thru-hiked the trail in 2014 — and some hike from one end to the other, then turn around and thru-hike the trail the other way, known as a “yo-yo”. Many books, memoirs, web sites, and fan organizations are dedicated to these pursuits.

The Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail form what is known as the Triple Crown of long–distance hiking in the United States.[7][8]

A Word of Warning

One thing you should expect to hear a lot about if you are brave enough to come with us on this adventure is gear.  If there is one thing this AT hiker subculture loves, its their hiking gear.  Countless hundreds of hours exist on YouTube and words on blogs of people reviewing, sharing and going over their gear.  By the way, keep your eye out for Joel and I’s gear review shortly!

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A Life Worth Living

imageIt has been almost six months since we decided to move to the Middle East. Many have asked of how we ended up living and being involved in one of the most “difficult” and “hardest” regions on the planet. The simple answer is that it was all His idea. Both my wife and I have felt that our lives haven’t been our own for a long time. When you have this deep conviction it is easier saying yes. Our no has been Crucified with Him. We get people praising us for living what seems like selfless lives. The honest reality is that we are doing what makes us come alive. He has orchestrated our steps and has led us down the road of Love.

We have had the privilege of working with His persecuted Body. Our days and nights consist of hearing people’s journey of Faith. They have had loved ones killed and everything they have worked for destroyed all because of their unbreakable conviction of not bending their knees to fear. I honestly can say that  I complain a lot less since I have been here. In the face of so much loss and pain what can I complain about??? Our brothers and sisters have lost everything but the ability to love. The way they have welcomed us to their homes and families is truly humbling.

If your asking yourself what can you do to help or how can I make a difference  I say to you is that you CAN love. You can love fearlessly and fully. Start with those around you. Do not let yourself be filled or swayed with fear by the Media and ask your God what He thinks about the Refugees. Ask Him how He sees them and go from there.    -Joel

 

 

Did I do that?!

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Had a dream the other day that I was driving one of these at crazy speeds. When I woke up I heard “Steve Urkel’s” voice in my head saying,”Did I do that?!” It reminded me of another dream I had where I saw myself living in this evil empire. For some reason the evil ruler liked me and I had favor in his eyes. He made me second in command (like Joseph in the Bible story). I was housed in the highest tower overlooking the city. The Rulers palace was next to my tower and I could look down and see it. One night I was overlooking the Empire and I accidently bumped into a huge water container that was up in my tower and It fell over and crashed into the palace and triggered a revolt among the people. I felt almost bad because I hadn’t  even planned it. The revolution happened by accident. My good friend Dave Vaughn in a conversation I had with him one time said to me that, “We had seen more by accident than many ministries had seen on purpose.” Lol. I really feel that God has placed many in strategic places and that He will use many without them even knowing it to spark revolutions and to overthrow evil establishments. Trust that He is the one guiding your steps even though you may find yourself in a place or a situation you never thought you would be in. Love you all. Love Has Won.