Monday, April 27, 2015

Some Things I'm Learning

Just a few of the things I'm learning lately... In no particular order:
-I can live in 99 degree weather without A/C (I'm challenging myself to hold out until it's in the 100s at least!), which makes the high 70s and low 80s feel cool.  And when I cross to Texas and enter a place where the A/C is set in the 60s or 70s, I nearly freeze.  One of these days I'll remember to start bringing a jacket or something with me.
-I'm getting better at playing chess, and I've beat Alfredo a couple of times.  I legitimately think I won the last time and that he didn't just let me win.  At least I hope...
-I'm learning all about Mexican school homework-- for varying ages and subjects-- good, bad, and neutral.
-I've been speaking enough Spanish that sometimes things just don't sound right in English anymore.  I find I invent words that sound right to me but aren't, such as "unrational".  Admittedly, I do the same in Spanish still too, but it's not my native language, so I just try to make up words I don't remember or know to begin with! ;)
-I've learned how to get a pre-paid cell phone plan and how to monthly recharge it, as well as how to enter the right codes to make sure it's actually entered right on my phone.
-For the good or the bad, I'm learning to drive more like a Mexican (Ohioans, beware!), and I continue to learn where more things are around town.
-I've learned there are still people here that drive horse and buggies for transportation.
-I have an irrational fear that anytime I enter a dark room and feel for the light switch there will surely be a tarantula or some other type of equally unappealing creature waiting for me on the switch.

Unfortunately, I don't have my new cell phone connector cord with me to upload any recent photos today, so they'll have to wait for now, but below I'll try to add some old pics or videos I have saved from my first week here.  I know, today's is not the most exciting post, but I'll be back in the next week or so.  In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a group from Plain City UMC from Ohio coming to visit the kiddos this weekend!

Gaby helping with the dentistry clinic last month:

Some of the kiddos actually enjoying some down time with suckers and watching a ventriloquist video:
There were some goats grazing outside the orphanage one day on my way home:

One of the things I miss from home- my wall of crosses I've collected from different countries and places I've visited.  For safe-keeping, I wrapped them and left them in storage in Ohio, instead of bringing them with me:

But this helps make up for it...  Not for sale, a cross Flavio made from the scraps of other crosses he has made to sell:

Be blessed!

Monday, April 20, 2015


I made it!  And it's been quite the adventure!  I still don't have internet at the orphanage, so I apologize for the delay in getting blog posts updated.  But while I'm in town using Wi-Fi today, I'll update what has been happening this past month.  Sorry in advance for the length, but there's always much to share!

I arrived safely and am getting settled.  There were only a couple of new children here since I was last here in July, so it didn't take long to learn new names and get reconnected with everyone.  I spent the first couple of days getting moved in and settled, as well as reconnecting with people and showing my parents around.  After my parents left to return to the States, I started to better learn my way around town, including where the kids go to school, how to get to church, where to buy groceries, and such.  I even got to do some substitute teaching in some college English classes, which I greatly enjoyed (I've now subbed for 7 in the last month)!  That first week, we had three new kids for only a couple of days before they went back home with family.  We now have 3 new girls (unrelated) that have separately come in the last week or two.

My next two weeks here, the kids were on two weeks of spring break, so learning my "normal" role also took a bit of a break.  But we enjoyed hosting some groups from Ohio and Alabama (I get to help with lots of translating when we host groups), and we got to enjoy some special days like going to swim in the river at a friend's ranch about 45 minutes from the orphanage.  [Side note: The weather here has been fluctuating between 70s and 90s, with lots of humidity, some sun, some clouds, and some rain.  Basically spring just a bit warmer than Ohio!]  We had lots of time to play and hang out!  The kids also enjoyed things like going to a pizza arcade, an Easter egg hunt (and cheating to see where they were hiding the eggs for the egg hunt!), and lots of play time.

I'm currently working on getting a library area and quiet study area set up for the kids to use.  Great thanks to Loretta, who was visiting last week, for helping me clean and get much of the furniture and books moved and set up!!  Nate, the other Ohio missionary serving here, and I are hopeful in the next week or so to get a positive behavior reward system put into play and that the children will respond well to good behavior earning rewards.  Weekday afternoons I help kids for a couple of hours with their homework and studies, and I have my work cut out for me (covering multiple grades and all subjects, and with many kids who struggle with school!).  I'm still in the process of getting my Mexican background check, drug testing, etc. approved so that I can be officially listed as an orphanage volunteer and start driving the kids in the van (so far I've only been allowed to drive the kids who are 18 and older).  Right now English lessons are on hold for a bit, until we can make some more progress with some of the kids in their regular classes in Spanish.  But I hope to start evening devotionals two nights a week with the kids this week (and hopefully Nate will help; he seemed excited and willing!).  In this pic can you tell which windows in the library area were just cleaned and which weren't?  There is dust everywhere here; you dust, and later that day it seems to be back.

Some other things I've learned and done in the last month:
-Whether you want to or not, you can go mudding in a mini-van after it rains here.  The paved roads have no drainage and easily have standing water.  The unpaved road to the orphanage takes days for the mud puddles/pot holes to dry out.  My van somewhat regularly looks like this...  And I despise having to go out when it's pouring, for fear of getting stuck in the mud.

-I'm still in a semi-rural area just outside the city... Aside from my cats (who are adjusting pretty well, aside from mainly staying in my bedroom and one still has a bald spot on his back) and the cute puppy who lives on our front patio, there are plenty of animals. Sometimes I come home to see a heard of goats grazing near the orphanage.  One of our neighbors has wild turkeys, chickens, and horses.  To my chagrin, I've also seen bats, small snakes, lizards, and other critters.  I, thank God, have yet to see tarantulas, live scorpions (yes dead ones!), or rattle snakes, but I dread the day I do!
-We're close enough to the border that there are a couple of restaurants with drive-thru's.  Yesterday, since I've been here a month now, I thought it was time I should break down, test my Spanish, and try it...  Maybe I should have gone inside...  When I didn't understand one of the questions I was being asked, I ended up getting all 5 types of sauce for my chicken tenders (salsa, bbq, ranch, buffalo, and honey mustard)!
-I've learned that, when needed, I can get a kid to the ER to get stitches in his face, even if I don't know the kid's last name, age, if he's vaccinated, etc. because the woman who went with me left me alone in the ER with him because she can't handle the sight of blood.  And the "more expensive" hospital costs about $75-$100 for a visit for 6 stitches to the nose of a six year old.
-I enjoy learning to help with wood-working (just sanding for now, not actually cutting yet).

-22 kids make a lot of laundry in just a few days!!  The two washers and dryers are almost constantly at work between clothes, towels, bedding, and so forth!  Sorting it afterward is also quite a little production!
Hail is quite the ordeal here!  We took a homework break for the kids to run to the door to watch and stick their hands out to try and catch it!

Some Prayer Requests:
-For our leadership, who has been facing some very trying challenges lately.

-For all of the children, especially for their hearts to be changed to accept and give love, and for hitting to not be their first response to conflict.
-For me for wisdom and discernment in dealing with kids, especially in being able to best help them with their studies.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading!  I need to save some for next time, so I'll sign off now.  I'll try to report back more frequently, as I'm able to fine and get on Wi-Fi.  Be blessed!

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Almost Time...

In just one short week from today, I'll be leaving for Mexico!  I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by!  I'm trying to get the final things checked off my to-do list (packing, getting new tires, renewing my teaching license, getting insurance switched over, getting my cats' wellness check and paperwork in order for crossing the border, getting my hair cut, and on and on...).  I'm trying to focus on the excitement of returning to the orphanage and seeing the kids there, so that I don't get overwhelmed with the bittersweet feelings of leaving my home, friends, and family for the next two years. 

This past Sunday I wrapped up my speaking engagements at other churches.  I was so very blessed to be welcomed to speak at numerous churches (Marysville First United Methodist Church; Lafayette UMC in London; Shining Light Community Church in Sugar Grove; Plain City UMC; Milford Center UMC; and King Avenue UMC in Columbus).  Thank you to the many people who have offered support (financial, through donating goods to take to the orphanage, and/or prayerful)!  I am humbled and at awe at how God is providing through such incredible people, many of whom were strangers to me but wanted to share their gifts with me and the orphans.

I don't have much new to report this week, but I will share some prayer requests, if you're willing to pray:
-Pray for me and my sanity as I pack and finalize things here this week.
-For me through the emotions of saying "Hasta luego" ("See you later") to family and friends.
-For travel mercies as I will be driving down next week, with two cats in tow.
-For ease of crossing the border into Mexico-- especially with my cats and their paperwork; and in hopes that I don't have to physically remove from my mini-van and open every box and suitcase I am taking with me; and that they accept I am moving and don't try to charge me import taxes on my belongings. [We hope to cross the border either on Thursday, the 19th or Friday, the 20th.]
-Pray for the orphanage, the children, and the workers- especially for protection; that God will continue to provide; for healing hearts of children from troubled backgrounds; for children to be united with forever families (whether back with their own families or through adoption); for the workers to serve humbly, with patience, and with discernment; for the children to know Jesus' love in their hearts; for groups that are coming throughout the spring and summer to visit for a week or so at a time.
Thank you for thinking of us and lifting us up in prayer!

Be blessed!

P.S.  I'm ready for spring.  While I'll miss the beauty of the seasons in Ohio, including the gorgeous snow, I won't miss shoveling, driving in snow and ice, nor the cold!  I'm ready to leave this winter behind (this was from a couple weeks ago, not today, thank God!)-
For more of this (actually from today!)-

Friday, February 20, 2015

More Kids Going Home

I'm down to T-22 days, and I can't believe how quickly time is passing me by!  But with the wind-chills in Ohio down to -25 and actual temperature at -10 the last few days, I'd be lying if I didn't admit how excited I am to arrive to Mexico for spring weather!  After spending the last two days home with a fever, I'm glad that today my temperature is back to normal; I hope to head to Mexico healthy and well.

There is again a lot of orphanage news this week!  While things at the orphanage do change, as is expected with 20-30 kids, they don't always change as quickly nor as often as they have this month.  The latest update is that the six children who were brought to the orphanage on Christmas Eve got to leave this week to live with their grandparents.  Additionally, two more sweethearts (a brother and sister) who I'd met my last two trips to the orphanage got to go home this week.  Again, I'm excited for them, much as I'll miss them too.  I pray that they go home to good, healthy, loving homes, and that their transition home goes well.  Additionally, I pray for those children remaining at the orphanage who are missing their friends and who may also be hurting because they aren't able to go home with their own family at this time. We're going to miss these dear ones, but we wish them well!

Starting today, another college-aged young man from Ohio will be working with the orphanage for 3-6 months.  He's joining another young man from my church already serving there until at least November.  The three of us were with the same group of people who went to the orphanage in December of 2013, so I'm excited to get to work with them again once I get down there (along with Pastor Ricardo and his wife Karla who run the orphanage).  I know the orphans will be so excited to see him again, as they had such fun with him before!  Sad as it is to see kids go, it may be a good thing to have a lower child-to-adult ratio over the next few weeks or possibly months, so that kids can get some more one-on-one attention from adults.  I'm looking forward to serving with these fun souls in the months to come!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Just 30 More Days...

I will be leaving for this new journey in Mexico in just 30 days.  I can't believe how much more quickly time seems to pass the closer it gets to my departure date.  I'm filled with such an array of emotions starting with excitement to some sadness at preparing to leave my home, to a little trepidation, and on and on.  I still have much to finish before I leave like getting new insurance finalized, renewing my current teaching license, finishing packing and deciding what to take versus what to store, getting my cats vaccinated and taken in for their wellness checks and paper work, and on and on.  I trust that it will get done, but I continue to look to God to provide with me time, energy, discernment, etc.

Over the next few weeks I am preparing to speak on Sundays at Plain City United Methodist Church, then Milford Center UMC, and finally King Avenue UMC.  Then on March 15th I'll have my commissioning and send-off from my home church, Marysville First United Methodist Church.  It's so exciting and a blessing to get to share this journey with so many others!

The update I got from the orphanage this week is one that fills me with joy, and honestly a little sadness too.  I'm only sad for selfish reasons in that I'm not sure when I'll get to see these children again, but I'm hoping I'll get to see them at church services in Mexico.  I'm mainly filled with joy that three beautiful siblings got to return home to live with their mother this week, after spending about 14-15 months in the orphanage.  Their mother was one of only 3 moms who came weekly to visit the children, so I'm thrilled that they're able to be reunited long-term now!  I pray for their transition back home to continue to go well.  I also pray that finances continue to be stable, and that their home life will be a safe, healthy, and happy one.  And I pray that they continue their Christian walks and get to continue attending church regularly. (And, if it's His will, I'm selfishly praying that I'll get to see them at least once more when I'm living in Mexico.)  Praise God for providing for these three precious kids to get to go back to their family home!

Be blessed!

Friday, January 30, 2015

It's official!! Things are happening!

Great things are happening!!  I now have my official dates!  It's becoming so very real!  I will leave March 17, 2015 to drive down to Mexico.  I'll take several days to drive down to Mexico, stopping in the Memphis, TN area to meet up with and see my sister and niece one last time.  It's about a 24 hour drive total, so I'll drive that over 3 days with some stops along the way.  I hope to arrive in Piedras Negras on March 20th.  Then my official start of service date in Mexico is March 21st!  That's just 49 days away, and I know it will fly by.

Additionally the site for online giving of financial support is now functioning.  However it's at a different web address than I previously had.  It's at this site now: Donate here (or ).  Once there, click on the "Use for the Individual Volunteer Program" drop down menu at the top, and then select "LaFrance, Laurel".  This can be used for one-time or recurring donations.  Thank you for considering to support me financially in this journey!!

God has blessed me so much through generous donors, and I'm already at just over 88% of my fundraising (whether through actual donations and/or pledges)!  I have three more churches lined up to speak to in February, and I am continuing to leave things in God's hands.  But I truly believe that, if it is His will, He will help me reach 100% of my funding through pledges and donations by my leave date.  It's amazing how God is calling others and using them to help support me on this journey; I am so very grateful and humbled!

I got completely moved out of my apartment this past week.  Now I'm working on sorting some things to figure out what will be stored while I'm gone, what I'm taking with me to Mexico, and if there are more things I can donate.  I feel like I donated, sold, and threw away nearly as much as I kept, which is both refreshing and a little overwhelming at times too.  But it's good to share with others and to be free of some things I can live without!

Finally, I found out there will be another college-aged man from Ohio serving at the orphanage from about February 15th through April 15th this year.  And I know we have a high school girl from my church who plans to go down for about 5 weeks this summer as well.  I'm so excited that the orphanage is getting some additional help and people to love on all the kiddos there!

Be blessed!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Latest

I haven't heard any further updates from the orphanage this week, so I pray that all is going well.  I'm sure there is an adjustment period for having nine new children there, so I am hopeful that everyone is adapting as best they can.  I know that there is a need for more adult help, so I'm still wishing to get there soon-- hopefully mid-March!  It's exciting (and, yes, there's a bit of nerves and fear mixed in there too) to think this could all come to fruition and be my reality so soon!

I just finished serving on a Chrysalis team this weekend (a spiritual retreat for young women between 15 and 25).  It was amazing and rejuvenating!  But now that means it's time for me to prepare to move in with friends this coming weekend, in attempt to save some money for expenses as I prepare to go to Mexico.  And today I was back to substitute teaching (which has been going great and keeps me plenty busy!).

Additionally, I'm excited to have speaking engagements lined up every Sunday in February at numerous churches.  I am so blessed to have been warmly welcomed by these churches!  The first weekend is my home church's missions Sunday.  On February 8th, I'll be speaking at Shining Light Community Church in Sugar Grove, Ohio.  On the 15th, I'll be with Plain City United Methodist Church.  And on the 22nd, I've been invited to speak with the congregation at Milford Center United Methodist Church.  If you know of a group (especially a small group, share group, or Sunday school class) that would be willing to let me speak to them, I'd love to do so!

I'm currently at about 40% of my fundraising thanks to donations and pledges!  Praise God for providing so much in less than a month of fundraising!  I am humbled and grateful to people who are willing to answer the call to pledge and offer financial support.  Unfortunately, my online giving site is still not yet functioning; it's pending the finalization of a couple of budgetary items with my sending agency office in New York.  So we keep hoping it will be activated soon.  I'll update when it is working for online giving. 

That's all for today.  Be blessed!

P.S.  Have I mentioned that I can't wait to get to see these kiddos again???...

Friday, January 9, 2015

Good things are happening

I'll try to keep this brief with just a few updates this week...

This past Sunday I was invited to speak at all three services at Marysville First United Methodist Church, and I was pleased with how things went.  I am grateful to Pastor Aaron Brown for allowing me to share how I have been called (going along with our reading from Jonah chapter 1) and inviting our congregation to partner with me prayerfully and/or financially.  I am so blessed that, as of today, through donations and pledges over the next two years, I have received almost 25% of the amount I need to fundraise!  God does provide!

My online giving site (through is taking a little longer than expected to get completed and uploaded.  The website functions, but I have yet to be added to the drop down menu under "Select a Missionary".  Hopefully that will happen early next week.  I am excited that, even without online giving being available yet, people are still generously donating via checks and pledges to support my missions work.  I trust that when I have been added to the website, it will make it more convenient for others to give as they feel led.

I am also fortunate that my home town's newspaper The Marysville Journal Tribune ran an article* about me today (in Melanie Behrens' Off the Hook Column, on page 5).  I am happy to share my story, and am thankful for people to read it and share in my journey.  I know that I have chosen to follow the path less traveled, but I am still glad to tell others about it (and eventually share another corner of the world with them from Mexico).  Thank you to my friends who connected me with Melanie, and especially to Melanie for interviewing me, writing the article, and printing it!

Tonight I am finalizing a PowerPoint to use as I prepare to speak at another church in London, Ohio this Sunday.  I am grateful for the opportunity to reach out to more people and share my new calling.

The polar vortex plummeting temperatures in Ohio to below zero, with a windchill closer to -25º or colder tonight makes me long to be in Mexico sooner than later.   Piedras Negras' high of 43º and 33º low seem warm in comparison.  While the three days of cancelled school this week (ode to cold and snow) have also cancelled my substitute teaching jobs and pay for those days, I have been able to use the time to work on missions stuff and fundraising, as well as getting ready to move out of my apartment in the next couple of weeks.  I'm not heading to Mexico quite yet, but am moving in with two generous friends until it's time for me to go abroad.  So step by step, I keep on trekking getting closer to moving to Mexico.

Be blessed!

*Especially for family and friends outside of Ohio, here's a copy of said article:

Friday, January 2, 2015

My fundraising postcards are finished prior to the expected pick-up date, but just in time!  God's perfect timing allowed them to be done this morning, in time for me to pick them up, take them to church, and insert them into bulletins before I speak briefly at this Sunday's services and officially start my fundraising!  Again, God's goodness continues to amaze me, as it took the printing place less time to perforate and cut the postcards than originally estimated.  Due to the shorter time required, they came in at $50 under the quote I'd been previously given too.  I'm pleased, not only with the timing, but with how they turned out.

Now I'm looking forward to stepping out in faith this weekend and asking people to partner with me in prayer and financially.  I'd appreciate your prayers as I prepare my brief message to share on Sunday (more like as I await the words of the Spirit to flow through my mouth to others' ears).  Obviously, I'd also love prayers for the Lord to continue to provide donors for my fundraising, so that I can get to Mexico and serve in His perfect timing.  I trust that God knows people's hearts and will work in them and call them to give, if and when He knows is best.  I believe that this isn't just my missions ministry, but God giving others the opportunity to share their blessings (financially, prayerfully, or however else He reveals), as He leads them to do so.

Finally, I have been informed that there are nine (yes, 9!!!) new children from two new families at the orphanage in the last week or so.  This is pushing the orphanage to capacity with the amount of adult workers they currently have there.  So please also join with me that God will provide for these children to stay in this loving, Christian-run orphanage, where I truly believe they will best be taken care of.  I pray that he provide for their emotional well-being, their necessities like food and clothing, and that they know Jesus' love in their hearts.  I pray that God continue to sustain the workers already serving, and that He allow me to join them as soon as it's best for us all.

Be blessed!