Monday, January 30, 2006

The week to come

Here's our schedule for the week. Any open spot will either be filled by sleeping, planning, or scrambling to pull together details.

Mon: rest (shop for equipment)
Tue: "Copa de Leche" kids camp (leading games and worship)
Wed: "Copa de Leche" kids camp (leading games and worship)
Thr: Painting an office, Evening concert in Plaza España
Fri: Painting an office, Evening concert in Plaza España
Sat: Teaching seminars at a church (Topics: Guitar, Piano, Voice, Rhythm, Sound Tech, Worship), Evening concert in Plaza España

1st time with a sound system!

I recorded this song as we played in a church service last night. The mix isn't good but you can get a sense of what we're playing.
(Oh, I'm playing bass)

Follow the link, scroll down, and download:

All the equipment that we used was stuff that the church already had. We're in the process of finding some equipment for ourselves and I spent last night researching and today shopping. We either have to rent frequently or buy a system to use and leave with this YWAM base. What's most likely is that we'll buy a small system and rent additions to it. Hopefully we'll have it all figured out before our first concert Thursday.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Praises: we now have a working transformer and four permits to play in a nearby plaza. That means that we have permission to play our amplified music and we can plug our instruments in without any explosions due to the 220 volt Argentine outlets.

After having fun this morning sharing our music with about twenty elders in a special care facility, we served lunch to some hungry people on the street.

[One special woman that we met]

[John talking with one homeless man]

[A couple of other men]

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Quick update

We have three (count 'em: THREE) leads on renting equipment and it looks like any one of them would work satisfactorily.

We walked and jammed some acoustic stuff in the park this afternoon and as we spent time out and about I realized that this city is different from every city in the world that I've been to. We start with this: if I walk 2 blocks east, there is a spacious park with a two playgrounds, open grassy/woodsey fields, a half pipe for skateboarding, jumps for BMX bikes, and a big amphitheatre. Even in my city this would be a big deal. But hang on... 5 blocks south of here we find much of the same thing: a plaza with pathways, benches, and a smaller stage for performances (seats about 100 people). This alone would be outstanding, but 10 blocks north of this very same origin we find yet another plaza with open pavement, more walkways, and more benches.

[Playing in the park]

...Parks to the east, south, and north and to top it off 3 blocks west is downtown with wide sidewalks and an abundance of both small shops and street cafes.

I noticed today that as evening was approaching, there was someone setting up for a performance of some kind in every one of these stages and plazas. This city is fantastic!

We had been discouraged yesterday because no one had done the dirty work for us of scheduling performances and applying for the permits required to play amplified music in public. But today we realized that this will be what we make of it. We can choose to take the initiative and make things happen. And, boy, is this city open to street performances!

Our schedule for tomorrow includes playing some music at an old folks' home and we hope to perform our dance for the first time there. Then we're helping some other group as they serve meals to hungry people in town who for one reason or another can't afford food. Then, Saturday night, we are leading a youth service at a church. With 18-22 year olds we'll worship, I'll preach, Lili will give a testimony that leads into a time of reflection and then we'll en with the responsive action of writing down our hopes and dreams on a piece of paper, bring them to the front and burning them as a symbolic statement of surrendering our plans to God and that because he has our best in mind, his plan for our futures is better.

Keep your eyes open for new photos on the right even when I don't have time to write here. Keep your prayers focused on God's will being done through us and his love e being shown through us. Whether our actions feel big or small, his love is huge and persuasive and faithful. I pray that that love is shown clearly through us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Traveling and arrival

Hello loved ones!
First things first, our whole team has arrived safely in Mendoza, Argentina and it is spectacularly beautiful, here.

[Me and Almut in the front row of the bus]

[Austin and Stephan in a small airport]

On the way here we had something of a spiritual experience in an airport. We managed a 10 hour bus ride and a short flight with all of our sound equipment and arrived on time in Caracas with hours before our departing flight. But as we tried to check in at the ticket counter, the airline personnel told us straight out that we had too much luggage. Now, airlines have ways to help people out with this kind of thing, but after using their formula to calculate the cost (8% of ticket price per extra kilo) it all summed up to $2,000 American dollars. Ha. That meant that round trip would be $4,000 and we figured we could buy, rent, or borrow anything we might need for less money than that. So, like Gideon sent half of his army home before the big battle, so we left behind the equipment that we held so dear and are trusting that God will either provide or use us in some different area of ministry.

This experience had the potential to pull us apart as a team because our defenses were down after traveling being in transit for the past 15ish hours but instead God used it for good and kept our spirits up and our flexibility bendy.

And now we are here. And "here" is one of the nicest populated places I've ever seen.

[The Office and the courtyard inside it]

The first day was spent settling in and we walked downtown to see the shops and stopped at a little cafe that sold fresh fruit drinks and chocolates. Yesterday was our second day here and Austin and I started it with a quick run before breakfast, then we "got oriented" as a team and got a driving tour of the city on our way to some natural hot springs turned picnic area/swimming pool in the hills. An afternoon of water and some fun acoustic jamming and then we came back to the base here in town.

But today... today was a doosey. Up early and out early so we could be on time for the prayer meeting that took place at the farm.

(...back up. We are being hosted by YWAM Mendoza. They have multiple facilities in and around the city of Mendoza. We are living in "the office" near the city center. The other locations include "the farm" just outside the city limits where their schools are held and "the desert" where there is an indigenous group that they're working with.
Okay, back to today's activities...)

At the farm we prayed and then helped them with some work duties. There is something of a joke among some of the staff that not very much gets done around the farm. As an example, we arrived with our "baby-soft hands" and they asked us to please dig a hole in the dirt for the garbage to go in. This hole ended up being about 10 feet square and a yard deep. And we were very proud of it. But when the man returned who had told us where to dig he saw that for one reason or another that wasn't such a good location for a hole and he had us fill half of it back in. Then it was lunchtime and we never went back to the hole, leaving it half-dug. After lunch was nap time and after a couple of hours we got back to work, slopping the pigs, taking out the trash, digging holes for telephone poles, and other fun things.

[Digging a pit for garbage]

Then there was an evening snack and we played some crazy-good soccer and I met a fellow Washingtonian named Elisha who had her frisbee on hand, so we threw that around until it was time to go.

Once back at the office I rehearsed the dance with Almut and Angie (almost ready to perform, link to video on the right), washed up, and ate another meal (that makes four.) We were briefed on tomorrow's activities and then scattered to sleep or write blog entries or paint toenails. whatever.

Tomorrow we start to track down some musical equipment, visit a museum to learn about the culture and history of the area, and in the evening we'll give some kind of acoustic concert in the park.

Thanks for your prayers. We could use some prayers in the areas of finding equipment, getting permits for amplified plaza performances, and having eager hearts to serve God in whatever may come our way.

Please note that all of my phone numbers have become invalid. This includes my Skype phone number as my subscription will expire and only two people chose to use it (including my mother).

I will still be available through email (brianwrussell [at] gmail [dot] com), Skype (throughwaters), or by commenting on any of these blog posts. I read every one. And one of our team leaders (John) has a cell phone that you may be able to reach at 58-(0416)470-7044.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

To Argentina!

Thank you for your prayers! Almut is back with us, feeling well, and ready to travel.


We're leaving on outreach... NOW! Blake has started shuttling equipment to the bus station and soon he will shuttle people there, too. Here's the scoop:

We start tonight with 10 hours on an overnight bus, then we'll hit 4 countries and 5 airports in two days. (Venezuela, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Argentina)

We'll stay 3 weeks at the YWAM base in Mendoza, Argentina as we perform music in parks and plazas, lead worship in churches, help with an HIV/Aids kids camp, and maybe even lead workshops on music and worship leading!

Then We'll spend one week in the high desert in a populated area that has no electricity or running water. We'll share our music and share our time. We expect to help them with hands-on construction and repair work.

That will close out our four weeks in Argentina and then we'll return to Venezuela for another three weeks of ministry in the cities of Puerto La Crúz and Puerto Ordás. (Possibly spending 3 days in the origonoco Delta.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Please pray...
for Almut (our team member from Germany). She was hospitalized this afternoon after experiencing symptoms today that were stronger than a normal cold. She was treated for severe dehydration and that improved her condition a lot but the doctors have decided to keep her overnight and are monitoring her heart rate. Kristina is staying with her tonight and we hope to have them both back in the morning.

It started setting in yesterday and she could still muster this face:

So we think she'll come through all right. (Photo from Karl)


Our bags are packed and we're about ready to hit the road...
We had our final music rehearsal this morning as a team and our personal stuff is all set to go. Tomorrow we live out of our suitcases as we pack the sound equipment (10 checked bags full, including drum set) and we scrub the Posada 'til it shines. I have a couple important things to accomplish on Saturday (college applications included) so I'm hoping it's free. Then, Saturday night we climb on a bus for a 10 hour ride to Valencia, VE. A short flight from there and we're in Caracas, VE. Another flight to somewhere in Peru and then to Santiago, Chile before we get on our last airplane that will land in Mendoza, Argentina.
Very excited for that.

More info to come on what we'll be doing.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I've been keeping a long list of things people have said as our 10-nation community has lived, worked, and played together. Funny things, moving things, lots of amusing mis-communications. This post will be full of them. This post will be long. Do enjoy.

"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any
kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it,
for I shall not pass this way again."

"do you have change for 5,000?"

"I need a good bible verse so people will give me more money"

"I don't like germs."
"You don't like Germans?" -Almut (from Germany)

"antigermen" (on Q-tip package)

"Karl... Do ever find it difficult to be so sexy?" -John

"Don't roar like a lion. It's after 10!" -Sofie to John

We (foreigners) shut doors hard. (many taxi drivers agree on this)

In portugal: one pretty dog for inside, one ugly dog for outside. -Greg

15cents/gallon for gasoline

"Mi nombre es Stephan y soy de los United States."

"I only spent 10grand last night!" -Carla

"Fresas con queso" -Sephan (means "strawberries with cheese")

"If I was sent to hell and sentenced to sweep for eternity, this is the dustpan that I would use." -Stephan

"Can you write down the sai-zah rhythms?" -Almut
"The what? ...Oh, the salsa!" -David

(After a Thursday evening community service)
"This is YWAM... crowding into a boring house and making it alive." -Karl

"Under the circumstances..."
"Why don't you get out from under the circumstances?" -Ron

Karl: "Hug?"
Stephan: "Hug?! Fine... crazy Norwegian."

"God helps those who help themselves. It's in the Bible." -Blake
"The American Rationalized Version" -Bruce

"Humility is willing to be known for who you are." -Loren Cunningham

"The disgrace is not that men fall but that they don't get up." -Ladimiro

"Christianity Light...
Look! It doesn't fill me up!" -Blake

"No dama, no fama, no lama." (No woman, no fame, no money.) -Bruce

"Pastor Samuel is the face of C.S. Lewis on the body of Danny Devito." -Blake

"Rolex on the outside. Mickey Mouse on the innside" Bruce Stefanik

"Nieves! You're worth much more than a cheap steak." -Steph

"I was still trashed in the Spirit." -Nieves

"Which was the one that blew: Mt. Rainier or Rushmore?" -Stephan

All together: "I am a leader." (led by Manny)
Blake: "...He told me to say it."

"When you have a new hammer everything looks like a nail."

"My mom is a kiwi." -Carla

After Leti finally got away from a sleazy guy, Stephan says, "Yeah, he gave me 5,000 for your email address."

About Toblerone chocolate: "This is more than Yodel-eh-hee-hoo!" -Sofie

"Maybe this guy is just the coolest guy I've ever met." -Nieves (unknowingly about Stephan)

We hear these a lot:
"¡Que fino!"
"¡Que lindo!" -Lili

"¡No puede ser!"
"¡Ay, no!"
"¡No manches!" -Tania

"Hello? My name is Karl? And I like porridge?" -Karl

"Don't listen to the lie of comparisson."

"Great hit records have been made that way." -Blake

These are commonly heard in YWAM:
"I received something from the Lord."
"God spoke to me."

Pastor Mario: "Lo unico que sé es hablar." (All I know how to do is talk.)
Marixia: "¡Y bastante!" (And plenty!)

Lili: "What did you buy me?"
Stephan: "A big jug of 'keep quiet'"

"I bet you a dollar that I can get a girl to touch my neck in the next 10 minutes." (flips up shirt tag) -John

On prospective marriage partners:
"And if he did own a cat he'd have to have really big muscles to make up for it, right?" -John
"And a lot of hair." -Steph

"I like stubble but not a full beard like Bin-Laden." -Steph

"Don't marry a fixer-upper." -Kristina

"Week after week the professors attack the separation of sacred and secular." -Blake

Speaking of facial hair:
"Yeah, Austin needs to... I don't know." -Blake

Frank Laumbach: live in continuous conversation with God.

The man makes food and sets it down. A cat eats the food and the man is furious. He throws gasoline onto the cat and the cat runs and runs and runs until: *pft*.
...he runs out of gas.
-Edgar Inciarte

"I've never really followed fads. ..I like flannel, though." -Austin

"Sophie, Sophie with your hair so red, without you I'd be better off dead." -Stephan

"come on girls. let's get snuggly!" -Steph

"¡hola, mi gorda!" -Santos (as an example of Venezuelan norms)
"Hey, thunder thighs!" -Austin (taking some liberties with the translation)

Friday, January 06, 2006

New beginnings

Here's a quick rundown of things that are new:
~Class resumed yesterday. (two weeks remaining until outreach.)
~I've started running with my sights on a half marathon in May.
~Almut and I began teaching our dance to Angie so that the three of us will be ready to perform in time for outreach. (8 measures left to coreograph.)
~I decided to try a new hair style. (I'd like to give some explanation, here.)

The long reason:
After a summer where having long hair was wonderful for deterring the Alaskan mosquitoes and a mournful haircut before being aloud to work for my Dad's company I realized that I was in a predicament. Last month my hair was pleasantly getting in my eyes again and I was getting my hopes up that I could grow it out again by the end of spring 2006. But then the realization struck that if I were to return home with hair past my ears then I would likely have to cut it again in order to find work. I certainly didn't want to subject myself to the long months wearing bandanas if it was all for naught, so I chose to try the other extreme. If long hair was nice, what about no hair? I could never know unless I tried.

The short reason:
I ran out of shampoo.

Next step: have some fun with the beard...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy new year!

There were more fireworks on new years than I've ever seen before:

And a belated Christmas photo:

There's a few more days of vacation, here, then back to classes and preparing for outreach. Our airline tickets have confirmed these dates: we leave for Argentina on the 22nd of January and return to Venezuela for the second half of the outreach on the 20th of February. Home in late March.

Los Llanos

Anaconda, Anteater, Armadillo, Capibara, Cayman, Pirahna, Howler monkey, Scarlet Ibis, and Sweetwater dolphin.

I saw each of these in the past week as I spent four days in the southern plains of Venezuela (called Los Llanos) on an eco-tourism trip. It was absolutely amazing. We got to watch egrets, cormorants and turtles from a river boat, chase a cayman while on horseback, pick up an anaconda and feel the turtle shell inside of him, and ride some whitewater (up to class 3) on inner tubes. Wicked fun.

Here's a map and a few photos...
(More photos through the link on the right)
(Video from the drive home linked on the right)