Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm a Mrs!!

I got married!!  I don't have many pictures to post of my own, since I was a little preoccupied with being a bride.  However, Daphne (and her mom) took some lovely shots, which can be viewed on her blog.  It was a great time. 
Now we're back in Pasadena, finishing up finals and settling into our bungalow.  I'll try to share some pictures of our home soon. 

So, this is a quick hello from the newly named Mrs. Sara Hillegass

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Parks and Recreation

How did a whole month pass since my last post?  I never even gave a report on Haiti.  Life got a little crazy after returning since I had a week of classes to catch up on, and then it was time for finals.  Finals were followed by a pretty intense work week - dean's office + grading papers, as I was a TA for a professor + new student orientation on Friday.  And that was our spring break!  Needless to say, it wasn't much of a break...however, I did manage to squeeze in a little time in the grand outdoors.  Thursday I went with a group of friends from Fuller to Joshua Tree for the day.  I honestly expected it to be a boring desert with a bunch of Joshua trees. But it was a lot more impressive than that! Plus, my dear ole pal, Naomi, came to visit from Seattle!  And she's so hard core, she hiked in her bare feet! :)

This past weekend some friends and I went to the Grand Canyon.  It was a pretty quick trip since we left Saturday morning, drove 7 hours to get there, then came back the next day.  But it was so worth it! Our friends, Cristian and Bella, are expecting a baby in 3 months, and then they'll be heading back to their home in Romania.  So this was a last opportunity to see the Grand Canyon before their life changes dramatically.  Grand Canyon is beyond grand; we didn't even come close to seeing it all.  Pictures could never capture it...  But here are a few anyway.  

And that guy standing in the snow with me...his name's Matt. And he's pretty great.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In Haiti

Beth and I arrived this afternoon...into a hot, muggy, cracked and tarped land.  All we've done thus far is get a ride from the airport to the compound where we're stationed.  The electricity just shut off, but I was told that I have a 10 minute window after the electricity is off that emails and messages will still send.  So we'll give it a shot...
Thanks for your prayers! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Haiti, cont'd

Just over 3 weeks ago I wrote the last post...and now I'm about to leave for Haiti!  Funny how God works, isn't it?  I really cannot believe I am going.  When ECHO asked if I'd be interested and willing to go on a consulting trip, I said I absolutely would be, but didn't see how it was possible given my school schedule.  Spring break is coming up, but I felt like I really needed that week to recover and gear up for another quarter.  Then, out of the blue, Stan (ECHO's CEO) sent me a proposed itinerary that listed his wife, Beth, and I leaving for Haiti on February 24th.  I was both confused and amused, thinking that there is no possible way I could leave week 8 of a 10 week quarter. But out of curiosity, I checked my schedule to see what was going on that week.  I was completely dumbfounded to find that I had a group presentation the day before (which took place today) and one the day after I was scheduled to return...and NOTHING else was on the calendar.  Amazing!!

So I thought I'd pursue this a bit. I called Stan to find out what the plan was...I mean, who am I to go on a consulting trip??  When he informed me that the group who contracted ECHO (Relief Int'l) wanted ECHO to assist in setting up container gardens for orphanages, I felt pretty confident in that...at least, I had 2 years of experience in that field.  Creole language ability is so-so...it's been a while, but I think a lot will come back to me.  So then I approached my professors and the Dean.  Their perspective meant a lot to me, so I was a bit nervous about how they would respond.  Dr. Myers, who I have tremendous respect for, said that because we were invited to come and had a specific task assigned, he didn't see how we could do any more harm than good.  And the Dean said that because I was going with a reputable organization and had some experience, he had peace about it.  And he prayed with me.  And so many of my friends and classmates have prayed with me and promised to pray throughout this week.  I feel tremendously blessed and supported by this community!

So here I go.  As many of you know, it's been a whirlwind week of emotions, with my grandmother, my last living grandparent, passing away last week.  With that consuming my thoughts, I haven't had much time to try to mentally prepare for this.  But how do you mentally prepare to go into a relief setting...into a country decimated by an earthquake?  I don't know what resources we will have, how much interaction we'll be able to have with Haitians and how much hands-on work we'll be able to do. I pray that one thing I can contribute is to draw attention to the many Haitians ECHO is connected to through their vast network.  There are many well-qualified Haitians who are very capable to take on greater leadership roles.  While every NGO and their brother is in Haiti right now, there needs to be greater involvement and capacity building amongst the Haitians.

The few details I do know from emails I have received is that we'll primarily be working in and around Port au Prince. We'll be staying in tents on a UN compound; security is tight and our curfew is 6:30pm.  We'll take bucket baths and may or may not have access to internet. They do have a generator.  It is the start of the rainy season, so it sounds like it's pretty hot and humid, and the mosquitoes are pretty prolific.  

So my prayer is that, as Dr. Myers told me, I can be myself and not feel like I have to prove myself; that I will have eyes to see where God is working and build on those areas; to listen first and the courage to speak when appropriate; to learn about relief work; and to continue the process of healing that I wrote about in my last post.  I am still in awe of this opportunity God granted me.  It will be a short trip, but I believe that it will be significant.  It already has been up to this point. 

Thanks for your prayers

Monday, February 1, 2010


News from Haiti is quickly disappearing out of the mainstream media, but Haiti's not fading out of my mind.  The whole situation is beyond comprehension for any of us. Many of us knew Haiti...knew that it was the poorest country in the western hemisphere.  For those who know nothing about Haiti, now they do.  But for myself personally, it's brought to the forefront issues that I never resolved from my time spent there nearly 5 years ago.  Those three months were some of the toughest of my entire life.  It wasn't homesickness and was not necessarily culture shock...it was something much bigger that I had never before experienced.  Only years later reflecting on the time can I recognize that I was experiencing spiritual warfare firsthand.  This was a totally foreign concept. But looking back, there were multiple things that happened that I can only attribute to this... I struggled with language, my legs were covered in some sort of rash that none of the long-term missionaries there had ever seen before, I got very little rest at night, having nightmares and waking up with a back ache every morning.  It was a really dark time for me, and caused me to question whether God was really calling me to be there or to do anything internationally.
All that to say, it tainted my view of Haiti. Not necessarily the people as a whole, because I met some of the most wonderful, sincere, humble, joyful people there.  But as a nation, I think I did see it as cursed.  Voo doo is real. We heard the drumming of worship services go all through the night.  And there are many who identify themselves as Christians while holding value in witch doctors and believing that people could place curses on one another if they were wronged.  It's difficult to overcome these superstitions that are so deeply embedded in the culture.
The news of the earthquake and subsequent responses of different people trying to answer the "why" question caused me to repent of this view I held of Haiti as a cursed nation that had become so dependent on foreign aid that they were enslaved in their own country.  I still maintain that the level of aid in the country before the earthquake was so high and in the grand picture, there was little to show for it.  However, in the Central Plateau, we got to build some relationships and see how people live. They didn't have much but they had everything.  They had a tight-knit community that was an extension of their family, they had enough to eat, most had access to primary education, and many knew Christ.  And the missionaries Daphne and I had the privilege of working with did a fantastic job of empowering the people in this small community to lead and dream and live fuller lives.
And so, watching the news reports of people worshiping in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake broke me.  Hearing from a Haitian lady here at Fuller whose extended family is still there say that her people are strong and that things were improving before the earthquake...this broke me.  Finding out that one of the boys Daphne and I knew during our time there - Fabneau, a bright young guy who played the accordian for the men's choir his father led, and who had gone to the capital for university - was killed when his house collapsed...broke me.  And now hearing about acquaintances with medical training who are going/have been there to serve in any way they can share of what they are seeing/doing - lots of amputations, bandaging wounds, loving frightened children...it's still breaking me.  And I pray that God will continue to break open my heart to increase my capacity to love...and not just for Haitians, but for anyone experiencing oppression, loss of physical needs, loss of loved ones, and loss of dignity.
I want to go back to Haiti...mostly to serve my brothers and sisters there in any way I can...but also partly to bring greater healing and resolution to this judgment I've harbored for the past several years.  Whether or not I go, I am so grateful that God has made it known that He has not cursed this nation, that He is still present, and that He loves each precious child.
I do continue to pray that this rebuilding can be done in a way that will restore some dignity to the people of Haiti, that it will be on their terms and not determined by foreign influences.  I pray for cooperation amongst all the NGOs to invest wisely and to be servants first. I pray for Thy will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

If you'd like to read more from Haiti, here's the blog of the organization I worked with: http://haffdetails.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Notice of Filming

We got a notice on our door this week alerting us to the fact that a film company was going to be filming a movie on our street.  Included on this notice was a description of the scene:
"interior/exterior single shot 1/4 load gunfire and simulated bullet effects on body and things...atmospheric smoke and steam effects...weapons brandished...driving scenes...foot chase and fight scene on property and in streets...surveillance scene...glass breaking...talent falls into pool." 
I haven't heard any of the gunshots or had any celebrity spottings.  There are just a bunch of huge semis parked along the street and very bright lights shining on the house nearby. 
The movie is called "Justified." Watch for previews coming to a theatre near you. 
Welcome to LA.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Years in Pasadena

This has got to be the place to be on New Years.  Colorado Blvd is one forever-long street party, where people set up camp on the sidewalks, playing cards, sleeping on air mattresses, spraying silly string and filling tortillas with shaving cream to launch on unsuspecting cars passing by.  It's really a fun atmosphere.
My New Years didn't start out so fun.  I willingly signed up to work the parade, and was told to report for duty at 2:30am.  So I went out amongst all the drunkards to find out what my job was going to be.  I figured we'd be doing some sort of crowd control or ushering people to their seats in the bleachers.  I was mistaken.  My job for the next 8 hours was to guard residential driveways from people parking in them.  And I was about 5 blocks from the parade route. Not my idea of a fun time.  Long story - short, I was never briefed by my supervisor, and after waiting 2 1/2 hours in the cold, with 2 coyotes running by within 10 yards of where I was standing, I decided I had had enough and proceeded to walk 4.5 miles home - virtually the entire parade route. 
I was a glutton for punishment, and decided to give the company one last chance to redeem itself and I worked at the Rose Bowl football game.  I mean, it's the Rose Bowl...how many times will I get to go to that game?  So I was assigned to guard a tunnel of the stadium.  After checking about 5,000 tickets, I was over the whole event staff job. I finished that shift, but have steadfastly determined that if I want to go to any other events bad enough I'll pay the money to see it rather than try to make a buck! 

Anyways, all was not a loss (except for Oregon!).  I got to see the end of the football game, and then Sunday my aunt and uncle and I toured the floats, so we got to see the amazing work of the designers and decorators, who work all year on those floats!  They told us the base cost for a float is about $200,000 and it goes up from there!  I love flowers so much and thought about how much my grandma would have loved to see the breathtaking display!